A regional court in Lazio on Tuesday upheld an appeal by culture and heritage group Italia Nostra (Our Italy), which argued that the prized Da Vinci sketch was too fragile to be transported to Paris, Italian media reports.
The court ruled against transporting the artwork after Italia Nostra argued that if it were exhibited in Paris, Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia – where it is normally held – would then be unable to display it for several years on its return.
The fragile work can only be displayed for short periods of time to limit environmental damage.
The hotly-anticipated exhibition at the Louvre – where Leonardo's most famous work, the Mona Lisa, is admired by some 20,000 people a day – is due to open on October 24.
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Alongside its own collection of Leonardo paintings, the museum's website said the exhibtion would feature “nearly 120 works” on loan from various European and American institutions
Italia Nostra said in a statement that it welcomed the ruling, adding that authorities would make a final decision on the loan later this month.
The court has scheduled a meeting to discuss the decision on Octobr 16 – just eight days before the exhibition is due to begin.
Former superintendent of the Galleria dell'Accademia in Venice, Vittorio Sgarbi, told Il Messaggero the court's ruling was an “outrage”.
“I know the situation. Leonardo 's drawing is always locked away in storage, it is shown only very rarely, nobody sees it,” he said. “And the top conservation experts in Italy have clearly said that it can be moved.”
Relations between Rome and Paris soured under the previous Italian government, though there are hopes things will improve under Italy's new administration