Italy court to rule on iconic Da Vinci loan to Louvre

Rome (AFP) –


An Italian court is to rule Wednesday on whether Leonardo da Vinci's iconic Vitruvian Man drawing can be loaned to France's Louvre, bringing to a head a bitter cultural row.

The Venice court last week suspended the loan of the world famous artwork, due to appear later this month in an exhibition at the Paris museum to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

It did so after an Italian heritage group, Italia Nostra (Our Italy), filed a complaint saying the drawing was too fragile to travel.

The Vitruvian Man is kept in a climate-controlled vault in the Accademia Gallery in Venice and is rarely displayed to the public.

The court put on hold an accord signed in September in Paris between Italy's culture ministry and the Louvre for a swap of works by Da Vinci and Italian painter Raphael for the Renaissance master's quincentennial next year.

Rome had been due to lend several Leonardo works to the Louvre for a major exhibition which opens next week.

In return, paintings and drawings by Raphael were to be loaned to Italy for an exhibition in the Italian capital in March.

The loan was already questioned by Italy's former right-wing government, which railed against the idea of lending Da Vinci works to France.

With fewer than 20 Leonardo paintings still in existence, many Italians are resentful that the Louvre possesses five of them, as well as 22 drawings.

The Renaissance genius was born in Tuscany in Italy, but died in the French town of Amboise in 1519, at the age of 67.

Italia Nostra said its motives were not political, but aimed at safeguarding a national treasure, saying the Vitruvian Man risked tearing and those who had given the green light for it to travel had not removed it from its case to examine it properly.