Gallery director protests at forced loan to Tokyo of Titian Venus

FLORENCE. The director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Antonio Natali, has called for stricter government guidelines to be drawn up on the loan of works from Italian museums.

His comments follow the Italian government’s decision to send one of the Uffizi’s most famous paintings, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, 1538, to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Eleven other works have been loaned by the gallery for the exhibition “Myth and Images of a Goddess from Antiquity to the Renaissance” (until 18 May). One of the organisers of the show is the Italy-Japan Foundation, a government agency that has the power to arrange loans from Italian museums.

In return, the Uffizi received E400,000 from the Japanese institution which will be used to conserve Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano, around 1456.

Speaking to our sister newspaper, Il Giornale dell’Arte, Mr Natali says that he has compiled a list of 23 works that should not be moved from the Uffizi because of their fragility. He added that visitors to the Uffizi should always be able to see these key pieces. This list includes the Titian Venus.

“The Uffizi is not a quarry to be mined. Rules should be set on loans,” said Mr Natali, adding that the Louvre, Paris, and National Gallery, London, are less generous with their loans of Italian art.

Last year, the Uffizi loaned Leonardo’s Annunciation to the Tokyo National Museum where it was seen by a record 10,071 visitors a day. It was part of the most visited show of 2007 in our annual exhibition attendance survey (March 2008). At the time over 300 prominent Italians, including film-maker Franco Zeffirelli, signed a letter of protest about the loan. Senator Paolo Amato chained himself to the gates of the gallery. Laura Lombardi

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