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Leonardo to the cleaners

· The Louvre to restore ‘St John the Baptist’ ·

Should a Leonardo be sent to the cleaners? This question was posed in the Thursday, 4 February edition of The Times, which reported that the Louvre has just decided to “restore” what is held to be the Renaissance master’s last painting, St John the Baptist (1513).

There is no doubt that “dirt” has accumulated on the canvas. “It is necessary to thin the varnish to get back the clarity of the painting,” said Sébastien Allard, paintings curator at the Louvre. Considering the sophistication of current technologies, The Times reported, the restoration process should not create any problems. But the mere fact of laying hands – no matter how competent – on a Leonardo, brings about anxious shudders. After all, the London daily recalled, just three years ago an extremely heated debate broke out over the restoration of another of the Louvre’s treasured, The Virgin and Child With St. Anne, painted by da Vinci circa 1510. The controversy led to the resignation of the then director of preservation of paintings, Ségolène Bergeon Langle, who held that Virgin’s face had been lost and protested that “the restoration should have never begun”, before slamming the door on his way out.

Regina Morieara will direct the work, supervised by a commission of 10 international experts. She is also involved in the restoration of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at her Bath (1964), also at the Louvre – to no protests or slammed doors.

Gabriele Nicolò




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 26, 2020