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“Telegraph” Gaffe: Louvre Affirms Its Hope to Display the Elusive Leonardo “Salvator Mundi”

Contrary to what the Telegraph pretends, the Musée du Louvre did ask for the loan of the “Salvator Mundi” and wishes to present it in its October exhibition.

So wrote Sophie Grange, the Louvre’s press spokesperson (with the link added by me), in response to my queries this morning regarding a widely disseminated report—Paris Louvre ‘will not show’ world’s most expensive painting amid doubts over authenticity—a piece about the controversial Leonardo by veteran cultural journalist Dalya Alberge, published online by the Telegraph on Saturday. (I suspect that by “pretends” in the above quote, Grange may have intended, “asserts” or “alleges.”)

Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi,” c. 1500
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Seemingly the go-to journalist for scholars seeking to debunk the painting’s attribution to Leonardo da Vinci, Alberge wrote about “an apparent snub from the Louvre in Paris, which is understood to have cancelled plans to display it [“Salvator Mundi”] in its major Leonardo exhibition [emphases added]”

But the following passage, tacked on at the end of her article, seems to contradict both that statement about the Louvre’s plans and the piece’s unchanged (at this writing) headline (linked above):

On Friday, the Louvre confirmed that it had requested a loan, but declined to comment on doubts about the attribution or concerns among politicians and art historians. On Sunday, the museum said that it is awaiting a response from the painting’s owner on a loan.

Vincent Delieuvin, the Louvre’s curator in charge of 16th-century Italian art, co-organizer of its upcoming Leonardo exhibition

So maybe there’s no “snub” after all. The Art Newspaper today ran a brief item by Cristina Ruiz, sorting out these conflicting accounts.

Here’s what Grange of the Louvre told me today:

The Dalya Alberge article only expresses the Jacques Franck opinion. Franck was one of the scholars who have been consulted seven or eight years ago for the restoration of the Saint Anne [my link, not hers]. He is not currently working on the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and has never been curator for the Louvre.

His opinion is his personal opinion, not the one of the Louvre. We have asked the Telegraph to correct the false information of the title and to add the Louvre statement to present the “Salvator Mundi” at the Louvre. [Something was lost in translation here. I suspect Grange meant: “to add the Louvre’s statement that it hopes to present…”]

In response to my question about whether the Louvre now doubts or rejects the painting’s attribution to Leonardo (as suggested in Alberge’s article), Grange said:

The Musée du Louvre doesn’t have to comment artworks from other museums [or other sources?]…except during an exhibition. We hope we will have the opportunity to present this artwork in October and then, to answer your questions.

I’m going to hold you to that, Sophie!

While we wait, here’s what Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the conservator who restored “Salvator Mundi,” had to say today about the latest flareup over the painting, in response to my query:

My views [that the painting is a genuine Leonardo] haven’t changed in the slightest way [link added].

For what it’s worth, here’s my own non-specialist view, arrived at after eyeballing the work on two separate occasions at the presale exhibition in New York at Christie’s, where it sold on Nov. 15, 2017 for $450.3 million—a record for any work at auction:

After had I stood and stared for a while at the face, however blurry, it mesmerized me….That hypnotic force is what overcame my skepticism, making me a convert to the painting.

Perhaps the Louvre will soon give others a chance to gaze at the painting, evaluate the arguments and form their own opinions.

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