Leonardo’s Belle Ferronnière To Leave for Abou-Dhabi

3/2/14 - Rental of art work - Louvre Abou-Dhabi - The list remains confidential and is to be released by the Emirates [1] but we can already reveal here that Leonardo’s La Belle Ferronnière will be sent by the Louvre to Abou-Dhabi for the grand opening of its satellite.

Once again, we feel it is important to criticize this obsession of French museums to rent out their masterpieces, without taking into consideration their fragile nature nor the risks they undergo in transport, not to mention the fact that the operation lacks any scholarly interest. La Belle Ferronnière is one of the most important paintings at the Louvre attracting visitors who travel from all over the world to see it. Thus, it is going to leave for at least one year starting in November 2015 [2], further reducing the collections which are already deprived of major pieces now on view at Lens. This painting was lent only once in the recent past, and that was to the National Gallery in London in 2011 for a retrospective highlighting the artist which had a real raison d’être. It was almost lent to Verona but the article we published resulted finally in the cancellation of the exhibition-rental to a private company. Alas, we doubt this will be the case this time...
We had repeated more than once that since the contract with Abou-Dhabi was signed, it had to be respected. However, this in no way forces the museum to send paintings that are this fragile and valuable. In a recent article, we pointed out the case of Manet’s Fife Player which is just as scandalous.

We would like to conclude this news item by pointing out that the Louvre just announced that La Belle Ferronnière is going to be restored. Vincent Pomarède told us that it would be "a very simple procedure which is to consist of thinning the more recent varnishes, in order to recover the painting’s depth and reestablish the balance of the colors."
While we do not share the view of those who say that Leonardo’s Saint Anne and the Virgin was damaged by its recent restoration, here we do not understand the purpose of lightening the varnishes in La Belle Ferronnière, a painting which is in good condition and shows no stains as did the Saint Anne. We do not systematically oppose restorations, but in a field like this and for a work this fragile, caution takes precedence. The coincidence of the two events (its restoration and its departure for Abou-Dhabi) leaves us with a curious impression, even if Vincent Pomarède reassured us that the two decisions were not related and that he has been thinking about this procedure since 2008 and "the beginning of [his] work with the researchers who met for the Leonardo study days".

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 3 février 2014


[1] The method itself is strange as normally it should be the Louvre who announces the choices it made...

[2] We should remember that the inauguration of the Louvre Abou-Dhabi is scheduled for 2 December 2015.

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