France: An association wants to “exclude” a famous painting from the Louvre museum

The French judiciary is considering Thursday an unusual request by an association seeking the return of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, which is on display at the Louvre.

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Demanded by the International Reformers, a mysterious association whose headquarters and whose leaders are unknown, the Council of State, the highest French administrative court, was called upon to “declare null” the “appropriate” decision of King Francis I. Portrait of Mona Lisa.

Presenting itself to the Council of State without a lawyer, the association demands that all actions “taken on the basis of a contested decision” be declared “absent”.

International Restorers, which claims to act “on behalf of the descendants of the painter's heirs”, wants the Renaissance masterpiece to be “removed” from the Louvre museum's inventory in the event of a victory.

If the request of international restorers is accepted, should the Mona Lisa, which has sometimes caused tension between France and Italy, be removed from the Louvre? Certainly not immediately. Similar requests by the Society for works less iconic than the Mona Lisa have not been successful.

Thus, in October 2022, the Association finally withdrew from the Louvre Museum's request to remove the items exported following excavations carried out by the Archaeological Service of the Eastern Army between 1915 and 1923. .

In November 2022, International Restoration asked the Chinese Museum of Chateau de Fontainebleau to declare that all items resulting from the sacking of the Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 by French troops were no longer recorded.

The Council of State rejected this request.

In its decision, which set a precedent, the State Council declared that the association had no “standing to act”. The court ruled that “only persons who consider themselves to be the legal owners interested in the return of these goods” are justified in submitting a claim.

Losing the support of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci came under the protection of Francis I in the winter of 1516.

Among his luggage, he carried some paintings, including the Mona Lisa (painted between 1503 and 1506). He presented his works to the French sovereign, in return for which he was given a generous pension.

These works entered the royal collection and never left France again. The Mona Lisa has been in the Louvre since 1797… and is expected to be there for a long time.

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