The Telegraph (UK) reports that Louvre officials have denied an Italian quest to send the Mona Lisa on a temporary sojourn to Florence, where the masterpiece was painted 500 years ago. Art historian Silvano Vinceti spearheaded the effort, hoping to gather 100,000 signatures in support of the loan.
Not surprisingly, Louvre officials immediately rejected the idea of transferring the most important and famous work in the museum’s collection. The Telegraph cites Vincent Pomarede of the Louvre, who argued that “any attempt to move the painting would cause incalculable damage — it’s just not worth the risk. It is in an extremely fragile condition and it is unthinkable that it would be moved from the gallery.”
Pomarede surely makes a valid point, but is the painting’s fragility the only reason for this quick reaction? The Mona Lisa now symbolizes the Louvre, touted as the world’s finest museum of art–all art. Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Dutch, French. The painting’s theft in 1911 and displacement to storage locations in Loire Valley chateaux during the Second World War serve as reminders that the Mona Lisa survived significant threats in the last century. French officials will ensure that this key component of the patrimoine national is shielded from additional risks.
For the forseeable future, touring days in Italy and France are over for La Joconde–or is it La Gioconda?
On the evacuation of French museum collections during the Second World War, see Karlsgodt, Defending National Treasures: French Art and Heritage under Vichy (Stanford UP, 2011).