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Lady with an Ermine in Berlin

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 22.08.2011 13:52
Lady with an Ermine, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece from the Czartoryski collection in Kraków is in Berlin where it will be shown at the exhibition ‘Gesichter der Renaissance’ (Renaissance Faces. Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture) which opens on Thursday in the city’s Bode-Museum.


The painting has been brought to Berlin from Madrid, thanks to assistance in the transportation arrangements from the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration and Polish Army. From Germany it will go to London where it will be one of the highlights of Leonardo da Vinci’s monographic exhibition at the National Library.

The series of foreign travels of the painting has long been the subject of heated debate among Polish art conservators, some of whom argue that it may prove harmful to its condition. According to an agreement concluded earlier this year, upon its return from London in February 2012 Lady with an Ermine will remain in Kraków for at least ten years.

It is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s twenty extant works and one of his four female portraits. It depicts Cecilia Gallerani, a young lady who entered the Milanese court around 1490 and became a mistress of the Duke Lodovico Sforza and the mother of his son. It was the Duke who commissioned Leonardo to paint the portrait.

The painting found its way into the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow after some very turbulent events.

Having initially remained in the hands of Cecilia Gallerani and her family, it later disappeared from view for a long period. It was purchased by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski during his visit to Italy at the beginning of the 19th century and sent to Poland, where his mother just opened the first public museum in the town of Puławy.

In time of the national uprising against Russia in 1830, the portrait was happily removed from Puławy and sent to other places in Poland and later to Paris where it was housed at the Hotel Lambert, the centre of Polish émigré circles, for thirty years. During the war between France and Prussia in 1870 it was taken from Paris and sent to Poland again.

In 1876 the Prince Czartoryski Museum opened in Krakow and at the end of the 1880s the painting was installed in the Museum for the first time. In 1939, after the German attack of Poland, it was seized by the Nazis and sent to Berlin. In 1940 Hans Frank, the Governor General of Poland, requested that it be returned to Kraków, where it hung in his office.

At the end of the war it was discovered by Allied troops in Frank's country home in Bavaria and was returned to Poland. (mk)

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