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After 500 Years, an Ancient Bronze Hand Is Rejoined to a Finger

In fact, the finger had been considered irreparably lost. But in 2010 Aurélia Azéma, a French Ph.D. student researching welding techniques used in making ancient large bronzes, hypothesized that the Louvre digit might belong to the Constantine at the Capitoline. The theory was confirmed eight years later when a French team of scholars and a curator from the Louvre made a resin reproduction of the finger from a 3-D model and went to the Capitoline to see if it fit.

“It was perfect,” Ms. Azéma said in an email. “Like two pieces of a puzzle.”

Mr. Parisi Presicce said that at the time, Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of the Musée du Louvre, “immediately decided it was right” for the finger to be returned to its hand, he said.

The finger had found its way to the Louvre in 1863, where for a brief time (1913-1915) it had been cataloged as a toe. It arrived via a large group of artworks that had once belonged to Giampietro Campana, a Roman art collector and archaeologist who had amassed one of the great collections of the 19th century.

He was accused of embezzlement in 1857, and his collection was confiscated and put up for sale in 1861. Napoleon III acquired one large lot, which was exhibited at the Louvre, and another lot was acquired by Emperor Alexander II for the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The finger and the hand were brought together for the first time in 2018, for an exhibition featuring the Campana collection at the Louvre that in 2019 traveled to the Hermitage.

Finally, the Louvre finger arrived at the Capitoline this week for a “renewable loan,” the French museum said in a statement. It was affixed to the hand “though an almost invisible, noninvasive and reversible system,” Mr. Parisi Presicce said.

The newly rejoined hand is exhibited next to the other pieces that made up the original nucleus of statues donated to the public by Sixtus IV, which includes the “She-wolf,” the famed symbol of Rome.

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A Clash of Wills Keeps a Leonardo Masterpiece Hidden

French curators had worked for a decade to prepare a major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. When it opened, though, the most talked-about painting they had planned to show — “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive work ever sold at auction — was nowhere to be seen.

Plucked from shabby obscurity at a New Orleans estate sale, the painting had been sold in 2017 as a rediscovered “lost” Leonardo and fetched more than $450 million from an anonymous bidder who kept it hidden from view. The chance to see it at the Louvre museum’s anniversary show two years later had created a sensation in the international art world, and its absence whipped up a storm of new questions.

Had the Louvre concluded that the painting was not actually the work of Leonardo, as a vocal handful of scholars had insisted? Had the buyer — reported to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though he had never acknowledged it — declined to include it in the show for fear of public scrutiny? The tantalizing notion that the brash Saudi prince might have gambled a fortune on a fraud had already inspired a cottage industry of books, documentaries, art world gossip columns, and even a proposed Broadway musical.

None of that was true.

In fact, the crown prince had secretly shipped the “Salvator Mundi” to the Louvre more than a year earlier, in 2018, according to several French officials and a confidential French report on its authenticity that was obtained by The New York Times. The report also states that the painting belongs to the Saudi Culture Ministry — something the Saudis have never acknowledged.

a 2011 Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London that included the “Salvator Mundi.”

If the only painting were displayed, he explained, “people could decide for themselves by experiencing the picture.”

Believed to have been painted around 1500, “Salvator Mundi” was one of two similar works listed in an inventory of the collection of King Charles I of England after his execution in 1649. But the historical record of its ownership ends in the late 18th century.

the anonymous buyer was a surrogate for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Now the controversy has made headlines again with the release of a new French documentary this past week claiming that the Louvre had concluded that Leonardo had “merely contributed” to the “Salvator Mundi.” Set to air on French television on Tuesday, the documentary features two disguised figures, identified as French government officials, asserting that Crown Prince Mohammed would not loan the painting to the anniversary exhibition because the Louvre refused to attribute the work fully to Leonardo.

by Alison Cole of The Art Newspaper. Scanned copies of the confidential report became prized possessions among prominent Leonardo experts across the world, and The New York Times obtained multiple copies.

Experts at the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, an independent culture ministry institute, used fluorescent X-rays, infrared scans and digital cameras aimed through high-powered microscopes to match signature details of the materials and artistic techniques in the “Salvator Mundi” with the Louvre’s other Leonardo masterpieces.

The thin plank of wood on which the “Salvator Mundi” was painted was the same type of walnut from Lombardy that Leonardo used in other works. The artist had mixed fine powdered glass in the paint, as Leonardo did in his later years.

Traces of hidden painting under the visible layers, details in the locks of Christ’s hair, and the shade of bright vermilion used in the shadows all pointed to the hand of Leonardo, the report concluded.

“All these arguments tend to favor the idea of an entirely ‘autographed’ work,” Vincent Delieuvin, one of two curators of the anniversary exhibition, wrote in a lengthy essay describing the examination, noting that the painting had been “unfortunately damaged by bad conservation” and by “old, unquestionably too brutal restorations.”

Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre president, was even more definitive. “The results of the historical and scientific study presented in this publication allow us to confirm the attribution of the work to Leonardo da Vinci,” he wrote in the preface. (His current term is set to end this month, and President Emmanuel Macron of France is overdue to announce whether he will extend Mr. Martinez’s tenure or appoint a new leader.)

The Louvre was so eager to include the “Salvator Mundi” in its anniversary exhibition that the curators planned to use an image of the painting for the front of its catalog, officials said.

But the Saudis’ insistence that the “Salvator Mundi” also be twinned with the “Mona Lisa” was asking too much, the French officials said.

Extraordinary security measures surrounding the “Mona Lisa” make the painting exceptionally difficult to move from its place on a special partition in the center of the Salle des États, a vast upstairs gallery. Placing a painting next to it would be impossible, the French officials argued.

Franck Riester, the French culture minister at the time, tried for weeks to mediate, proposing that as a compromise the “Salvator Mundi” could move close to the “Mona Lisa” after a period in the anniversary show, the French officials said. .

And even after the exhibition opened without the “Salvator Mundi,” in October 2019, French officials kept trying.

Prince Bader bin Farhan al-Saud, an old friend of Crown Prince Mohammed who had acted as his surrogate bidder for the “Salvator Mundi,” had later been named Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture. When he happened to visit to Paris, the French culture minister and Louvre president led him on a private tour of the museum and exhibition to try to persuade him to lend the painting, the French officials said.

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

A planned section of the catalog detailing the authentication was removed before publication, and the museum ordered that all copies of the report be locked away in storage.

Sophie Grange, a Louvre spokeswoman, said museum officials would be forbidden to discuss any such document because French rules prohibited disclosing any evaluation or authentication of works not shown in the museum.

Corinne Hershkovitch, a leading French art lawyer, said these “long-held traditions” had been “formalized by law in 2013, in a decree establishing the status of heritage conservators.”

But with the French refusing to talk about the painting and the Saudis refusing to show it, the proliferating questions about the painting have taken a toll, said Robert Simon, a New York art dealer involved in the rediscovery of the “Salvator Mundi.”

“It is soiled in a way,” he said, “because of all this unwarranted speculation.”

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We Don’t Know How Much Art Has Gone Missing From Museums

Should museums tell the public about missing art?

Two pieces of gold and silver-encrusted Italian Renaissance armor, which had been stolen from the Louvre in 1983 and found this year in a family’s private collection in France, were discovered the way stolen art often is: An expert crosschecked the items against an online database of lost and stolen art.

But museums have at times withheld information about thefts, fearing that revealing security weaknesses could make other institutions less likely to loan them art or that it could encourage other thefts, according to current and former museum officials. Art security experts say the failure to report thefts, particularly involving items stolen from storage, has prevented museums from recovering items.

Philippe Malgouyres, the curator of heritage art at the Louvre, said that when he started working in museums decades ago, he heard stories of thefts and disappearances that had not been reported.

“Our purpose is to preserve objects for the future and for the public,” Mr. Malgouyres said. “When we fail to do that somehow, when something is stolen, it’s a very painful experience, which led some museums in the past, especially, not even to go to the police sometimes, because they were feeling so embarrassed about it.”

that recovered two J.M.W. Turner paintings in 2002, eight years after they had been stolen while on loan to a museum in Germany.

On Sunday, the newspaper El País reported that the National Library of Spain had discovered in 2014 that one of its holdings, a 17th-century book by Galileo, had been replaced by a copy but did not report it to the police until four years later, when researchers had requested the work.

stole 27 pieces from the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, the police kept quiet about the theft and, as a result, recovered most of the pieces, she said.

“Sometimes they’re very quiet, not so talkative or splashy,” Ms. Albertson said of the division of Italian police that focuses on art crime. “That discretion has been quite helpful.”

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The Louvre Recovers Armor Pieces Stolen Nearly 40 Years Ago

After sunset on May 31, 1983, and before dawn the next morning, a showcase at the Louvre was broken into and two pieces of 16th-century Italian armor were stolen in one of the most mysterious heists in the museum’s history.

Nearly 40 years later, the two items — a ceremonial helmet and a breastplate — were identified in the private collection of a family in Bordeaux, in western France. The police are investigating how the items ended up in the family’s estate, and who was responsible for the theft.

“The Louvre is delighted that these two pieces of Renaissance armor have been found thanks to the work of investigators,” the museum said in a statement. It added that what happened on the night of May 31, 1983, remained “an enigma,” with few details known to the general public.

The museum did not respond to requests for more information about the circumstances around the theft, the identity of the family who had the armor, or what prompted the family to have their private art collection appraised.

the French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

The two items, thought to have been made in Milan in the second half of the 16th century, will be put on display as soon as the museum reopens, the Louvre statement said. They were bequeathed to the Louvre, one of the most visited museums in the world, by the Rothschild family in 1922.

The museum said in its statement that the 1983 theft had “deeply troubled all the staff at the time.”

There have been several high-profiles heists at the Louvre. Probably the most famous occurred during the summer of 1911, when a museum employee stole the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, was arrested two years later while trying to sell the painting in Florence, Italy, and the painting was returned to the museum.

“I had only to choose an opportune moment and a mere twist would put the picture in my hands,” he said in court in 1913. He described snatching it from the wall and slipping it under his blouse. “It was all done in a few seconds.” His motivation was to return the painting to his native Italy, he said.

The thieves climbed up a metal scaffolding and smashed windows on the second floor, breaking into the museum. And in 1990, a painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir, “Portrait of a Seated Woman,” was cut from its frame and stolen from a third-floor gallery.

Erin Thompson, an associate professor of art crime, said that it was not unusual for museum curators to keep quiet about thefts. “Museum curators thought that if they admitted a theft, they would be exposing a security flaw or inspiring other people to take action,” Dr. Thompson said. “But researchers in the last couple of decades have been saying, ‘Look, guys, you’re not going to get anything back if people don’t know it’s missing.’ So museums are rather reluctantly publicizing thefts more, which has resulted in a lot more recovery of things.”

One risk to publicizing thefts is that if thieves learn the authorities are on to them, they are more likely to destroy, deconstruct or melt stolen works to avoid detection, Dr. Thompson said. A small percentage of stolen art is found, although studies show that about 40 percent of art stolen from showcases in museums is returned, as those works tend to be more recognizable and their theft is usually noticed right away. When art is stolen from storage, it can take museum officials years to notice items are missing.

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