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Italians bid to borrow Mona Lisa

Authorities in Florence on Thursday asked the Louvre Museum to loan them Leonardo's closely-guarded Mona Lisa for an exhibit in 2013 – 100 years since the last time the work was displayed in Italy.

Italians bid to borrow Mona Lisa

The appeal to France came from an Italian historical society and has received support from Florence’s provincial government, which announced the initative on its website and said it would seek to widen the campaign.

The precious painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 by an Italian who was arrested in 1913 after trying to sell it to an antiques dealer in Florence.   

The Mona Lisa was briefly put on display in the Uffizi Gallery before being returned to France, where it has been since it was painted in the 16th century.

“This is not a declaration of war against France. It’s an appeal aimed at collaboration,” said Silvano Vinceti, the head of a historical society organising the improbable appeal together with the province of Florence.

“This would be an event of enormous cultural and historic value as well as a marvellous occasion for the whole of Italy,” he said.

“The Gioconda has left the Louvre museum three times. It can do so again.”   

Vinceti said the aim was to collect 100,000 signatures within the next few months and to lobby the Italian parliament to back the campaign, which will appeal directly to the Louvre and to the French ministry of culture.

A spokesman for Florence’s provincial government said: “We are supporting this. We will try and get more backing from city and regional authorities too.”

The rivalry between Italy and France over ownership of the Mona Lisa is a saga spanning centuries and still stirs passions on both sides of the border.

Leonardo is believed to have started the work in Italy and finished it in France.

It is now jealously guarded by the Louvre and was last taken out of the famous Paris museum in 1974 when it was loaned to Tokyo in an exceptional move – the only time the painting has left the country since its theft.

Vinceti is leading a team of archaeologists digging up a former convent in the centre of Florence to try and find the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the woman believed to be the model for Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting.

TOURISM

New guide to Paris museums – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Paris' museums and art galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

New guide to Paris museums - showing only the nudes
Find your way straight to the most erotic works in Paris galleries. Photo: Guiseppe Cacace/AFP

The online guides to the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay museums are produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

The Classic Nudes series has been ruffling some feathers since it was posted online earlier in July, with the Uffizi museum in Florence threatening to sue. Bosses at the Louvre have said only that they are ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay has remained silent on the subject.

The guide for the Musée d’Orsay lists 11 erotic artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and a location for each piece within the museum.

The Sleep by Gustave Courbet. Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

Among the works featured are;

  • Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet (1863) – which features a group having a picnic in which the woman has lost her clothes (the men remain fully dressed in three-piece suits and ties).
  • Un combat des coqs by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1846) – a nude couple watching a cock fight (that’s cockerels fighting, just to be clear).
  • L’origine du monde by Gustave Courbet (1866) – more than 150 years after it was first painted, the intimate close-up of female genitalia is still making waves. In 2019 Facebook had to pay damages to a French teacher whose account was closed when he posted a picture of the famous artwork.

The guide for the Louvre includes:

Nude young Man by Hippolyte Flandrin. Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
  • Portrait of Madeleine by Marie Guillemine Benoist (1800) – groundbreaking in several senses, this painting is one of the few on the list by a woman, and shows a topless black woman, painted just six years after the abolition of slavery in France’s colonies. 
  • Diane sortant du bain by François Boucher (1742) – one of many paintings on the list showing women having a bath, this features the Greek goddess Diana and her favourite nymph apparently surprised by the artist in the process of drying off after a bath. 
  • Le Jeune homme nu by Hippolyte Flandrin (1835) – most of the flesh shown in both the galleries is female (because that’s the patriarchy for you) but here we have a more rare male nude, a study of a young man sitting and looking rather sad and pensive.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

Both museums, however, form a great day out for all the family and contain a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present both are operating reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.

IN DETAIL: When do France’s top tourist sites reopen?

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