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Loans to Leonardo and Raphael, France beat Italy 21-7. Franchises, what are you doing ?!

The deal between Italy and France on the loan of Leonardo and Rafaelo is not only highly unbalanced. The question is whether the loans make sense and are useful.

In the end, it is exchange of works between Italy and France for exhibitions celebrating the five hundred years since the disappearance of Leonardo and Raphael (in 2019 Vinci, in Urbino in 2020), predicts that twenty-one works will go to France, including those of Leonardo da Vinci and those of his other illustrious colleagues (starting with Verokio), while France will be deprived. from only seven works by Raphael. And that it exists strong imbalance rit is evident not only from the numbers, but also from the form conceived for the loan betting: the "Memorandum of Understanding", or the agreement signed on 24 September by the Ministers of Culture of Italy and France, Dario Franchesini and Frank Richter, in fact involves the exchange of seven works on each side and provides that others coming from Italy rather than appearing as "things not subject to the Memorandum" (but still borrowed from our state museums). This, of course the substance does not change in any way: France wins twenty-one, Italy seven. And if the form stipulates that fourteen acts are excluded from the Memorandum (even if they fly exactly like the others at one point in Paris), this is probably an indication of the fact that the imbalance in favor of France appeared immediately clear.

But it's not just about quantity: the quality of loans is surprising. Among the deeds deprived of Italy appear works of primary importance, and at least three of them are related to the identity of their museums in publicVitruana, a symbol of the galleries of the Academy of Venice, Scapiliata, now a famous icon of the National Gallery of Parma, andDisbelief of St. Thomas part Verokio, probably along with San Marco of Donatello's most famous work of the Orsanmikel Museum). And among the masterpieces we have to mention Landscape study of Ufizi, Leonardo's first known work, dating from 1473. France responds with two pictures (on Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione andSelf portrait with a friend) and five drawings by Raphael: to get an idea of ​​the imbalance, think of the reaction of a potential visitor to the Pilot Museum or the Orsanmikele Museum, which they cannot find Scapiliata orDisbelief of St. Thomas, and then try to do the same exercise with a hypothetical visitor to the Louvre that doesn't find it Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione orSelf Portrait to Raphael.

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruana
Leonardo Da Vinci, Proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius – Vitruvius (About 1490; metallic tip, pen and ink, watercolor touches on white paper, 34.4 x 24.5 cm; Venice, Gallery dellAccademia)
Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a woman called La Scapilia (circa 1492 - 1501; white lead with iron and cigarette pigments, in preparation of white lead containing copper-based pigments, yellow lead and walnut board, 24.7 x 21 cm; Parma, Pilot Monument Complex, National Gallery)
Leonardo Da Vinci, Head of a woman called La Scaplia (C. 1492-1501; white lead with iron pigments and cinnabar, for the preparation of white lead containing copper, lead yellow and walnut board pigments, 24.7 x 21 cm; Parma, Monument to the Pilot Complex , National Gallery)
Andrea del Verokio, Inclusive
Andrea del Verokio, Involvement of St. Thomas (1467-1483; gold plated bronze, 241 x 140 x 105 cm; Florence, church and museum of Orsanmichele, from the Tent of Mercancia University)

And this only if we wanted to stop political reasons, which, in reality, should not be the basis of a loan of artwork in an absolute way. Also because everyone has their own motivations: it makes no difference if you want to deny a loan because you believe Leonardo is an Italian artist (this was the grotesque line of important populist actors) or if you think of it as a grant to strengthen the friendship between the two countries. Loans on ancient artwork they should stay out of politics, because the loan is a scientific act, not a political act. Therefore, it is worth reading a very famous article that Frances Haskell he wrote in 1990, which was given the eloquent title Titanium and the dangers of international exhibition, and that the English art historian has opened up thinking about the necessary compromises underlying all the major international exhibitions of ancient art: on the one hand, the borrowing institutions should only grant their works if on the other hand there are some original scientific pieces interests, and on the other hand, those who ask, but, Haskell wrote, they often organize exhibitions that have nothing to do with science, perhaps because they are set for political, prestige or cassette reasons. Loans, therefore, often have to adapt to this logic in the sense that they can become the subject of political agreements or pawns to increase the prestige of an exhibition or its economic success. Therefore, the only criteria that should guide the design of the exhibition should be those of scientific and fromNew.

It is clear and evident that the museums borrowing the works (Ufizi, Venice Academy Galleries, Complete Works Pilots, the Orsanmike Museum, the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Royal Turin Museums) gave their consent only after careful confirmation that they were working. I'm able to travel. Just as it is clear that the Louvre has the power to set up an Leonardo exhibition that can satisfying the international public. However, we must ask ourselves whether or not Leonardo's exhibition is unnecessary, arranged only because this year marks a round anniversary (alas: until now it seems that art history can only be done with birthdays), and without producing such significant scientific innovations to justify such an important movement of works, only four years after the last major exhibition (the one at Palazzo Reilly in Milan) and the year in which, throughout Italy and beyond, we witnessed a large number of Leonardo Events (some useful and scientifically flawless, others less so). Without calculating it, for an exhibition among many othersthe public may be deprived of the opportunity to seeVitruana: colleagues at Veneto's Corriere reported the opinion of Opificio delle Pietre Dure chief, Marco Fati, that further exposure to fragile drawing could prevent us from bringing it to light in the next ten years. The Supreme Institute for Conservation and Restoration did not appear on the same notice, but the mere fact that one of the most accredited experts in preserving works expressed in certain terms, had to suggest, at least, maximum precaution, avoiding the travelogue with a dubious tool as well. because this yearVitruana already enjoyed a comprehensive exhibition at the headquarters. A problem that, on the other hand, also applies to Portrait of Baldassarre Castiglione, albeit on a smaller scale, because work in this case does not risk forced rest, but because of its fragility until 2006 it never left the Louvre: after which it traveled frequently, which is why it would be the case to avoid taking a new trip.

Frank Richter and Dario Francescini sign loan agreement
Frank Rister and Dario Francescini

Now, in the absence of news about Raphael's exhibition in Rome, it is possible to take a look through Leonardo's declarations of intent: the "museum", the presentation states, "in this year of commemoration, he has the opportunity to collect as much as possible more works by the artist about the five main pieces in the collection: Virgin of the rocks, on They were Heroniner, on Gioconda, on Saint John the Baptist and Sant & # 39; Anna"And if we start to put it quantity plan, leaving is nothing but positive. Then it turns out that "the goal is to exhibit the works along with a huge core of drawings and a small but significant selection of drawings and sculptures from the master's circle": and here the exhibition's curators, Vincent Delijuvin and Louis Frank, misinterpret, because the core exposure to the works should be the means by which the goal will be achieved, not the very purpose. And again: "this unprecedented Leonardo painter's career exhibition will illustrate how the artist paid the most attention to painting, and how the exploration of the world, which he referred to as the" science of painting ", was an instrument of his art, with who was looking for nothing but life in his paintings. " Until now, no exhibitions have been organized to let us know about the significance that Leonardo attributes to painting. Finally: "the exhibition is the culmination of more than ten years of work, during which new scientific investigations of the Louvre paintings and conservative interventions of three of them were conducted, enabling a better understanding of Leonardo da Vinci's painting practice and technique." If, therefore, important results (which appear to be mainly technical) are achieved on the Louvre paintings, how are the Italian loans justified in this operation?

Given the situation, it is necessary to ask Minister Dario Francescini a few questions: why, with a mere quantitative plan, does France leave negotiations with triplicate that is instead assigned to Italy? Dear Minister, how do you intend to explain to the Pilot or Orsanmikel visitor that these museums will be missing two fundamental works, for a long time, because they went to an exhibition which, on paper, does not seem to be supported by a scientific system that can to justify the loans? How would you explain to the Italian public that, after this trip,Vitruana Could it not be exposed for ten years, in the opinion of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure chief? Why did we learn from a British newspaper about the continuation of negotiations with France, with no room for public discussion? Should we expect the mass exchange of works of art for inevitable scientific reasons to become a custom, given the fact that the Bonissol reform has extended to the figure of the Secretary General the power to coordinate the lending policies of all state museums? Distinguished Minister, is aware that loaning a work is a decision that should apply exclusively to the direction of the museum, and moreover the director of an important state museum will leave the office in a few weeks also because he believes that in Italy the ministers too much interfere with museum life?

Finally, the words of the French Minister should also be taken into account Frank Richter, according to which "the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael belong to mankind" and "it is the duty of Italy and France to bypass them when technical conditions permit". No, let the works circulate it is not a duty: it is an opportunity for knowledge to emerge where appropriate conditions exist. And the right conditions they are not just technical, because traveling can be technically feasible, but it can also be completely useless, perhaps because work goes to feed an exhibition where its presence would not add much. And travel, even technically feasible and accurate, reduces the likelihood of that business traveling or seeing the future: the example ofVitruana looks clear enough. It takes more than ever to avoid the logic of works tourism (though unfortunately it seems to be raging with increasing insistence), and it is urgent to take steps to get people to travel instead of work.

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The author of this article: Federico Giannini

Art journalist, born in Massa in 1986, graduated from Pisa in 2010. Windows of art with Ilaria Barat. Besides these pages, I am writing Art and File and up left.

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