Picked up this topic over at http://yoursormine.wordpress.com/ and just had to add my thoughts.
The basic issue: The French have possession of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”. He probably painted it in Florence. The Italians want it (back?) to place in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Two questions are raised for me by this. Firstly, how do we determine the “birthplace” of an object? Secondly, can an object belong to more than one nations heritage?
I should start this by saying that although I am an advocate for the repatriation of SOME objects I am not of the opinion that this is a “one size fits all” type of solution. That may colour my opinion. I think the Italians are on some very shaky ground here. Firstly, the fact that the painting was painted in Florence, or even that the painter was Italian, is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that he moved it out of the country during his lifetime. It has been in Florence for a very short space of time over the course of its existence. Comparisons have been drawn to the Elgin Marbles but I’m not sure even they are comparable; they were, arguably, in Greece a lot longer than they were in London. Furthermore, I’d say they may have somewhat more meaning to Greek national identity than the Mona Lisa does to Italian identity. Possibly. I digress. What I am essentially asking is whether point of creation is the single indicator of “ownership”?
I’m not saying it doesn’t have meaning or value to the Italians – but this is a painting that has meaning to the artistic movements of many countries and is truly “world heritage” in that respect. The Mona Lisa is the single best known piece in the Louvre. The Louvre is the best known gallery in France. The painting has spent most of its existence in France. At this point, I’m inclined to say, since it was never removed illicitly but rather transported by the painter himself, that this time at least… I have to side with the French.