How Leonardo flew to the Louvre for an adverb. The views of Tomaso Montanari and Antonio Lampis

More on the loan of the Vitruvian Man to the Louvre: the loan possibly possible due to a legal be resolved.

Leonardo da Vinci ’s Vitruvian Man was finally displayed at the Louvre. But the matter should not be considered closed, since a legal issue remained to be resolved that may arise again in the future for other works that are on the list of the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia among those “excluded from loan as they constitute the Museum’s main fund,” such as Giorgione’s La Tempesta, Titian’s La Pietà or Michelangelo’s The Fall of Phaeton. Or even in the case of similar “blinda prestiti” lists that other museums may have given themselves, not without accompanying them with an exception that, you never know, can always come in handy for the “needs” of politics. We, therefore, asked Tomaso Montanari to comment for us on the order by which the Veneto Regional Administrative Court rejected Italia Nostra’s appeal. For the art historian, “the point is that the law [Legislative Decree 42/2004, Art. 66, c. 2. l. b), ed.] says they cannot leave: and the law is superordinate to the act of the Museum. That if it identifies works as the main fund, it cannot then mitigate the exit ban, because there is precisely the law.”

In what, then, does the contrast consist in detail? In its order rejecting the appeal, the Tar explains that the “identity character” of Leonardo’s drawing “is not absolute and does not peremptorily exclude the work from the loan.” In the note of the Venetian museum with the works excluded from the loan, there is, in fact, an exception (it says “generally excluded”), while Art. 66, c. 2. l. b) of Legislative Decree. 42/2004 excludes “in any case” “the goods that constitute the main fund of a specific and organic section of a museum, art gallery, gallery, archive or library or of an artistic or bibliographic collection.” Now, given that the hierarchy of sources in law, recalled by Montanari, stipulates that a rule contained in a lower-ranking source cannot counteract a rule contained in a higher-ranking source, and given, moreover, that the museum document is valid for all legal purposes until it is annulled, should not the Administration itself recognize the antinomy between the two norms of different hierarchical rank, so that the one of a higher rank annuls the one of a lower rank? And what we asked Antonio Lampis, head of the General Directorate of Museums of the Mibact. For loans abroad, in fact, in the case of autonomous museums, which is the case of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the director of the museum gives the authorization after also hearing the DG Museums, in addition to the relevant general directorates.

L'Uomo vitruviano di Leonardo da Vinci in mostra al Louvre
Leonardo da Vinci’sVitruvian Man on display at the Louvre

Lampis recalls that “the scientific council of the museum has expressed itself well on what is in Venice main fund.” Hinting, perhaps, at a certain disconnect from the above-mentioned list signed by museum director Paola Marini in October 2018. In any case, there is no doubt that the Leonardo is among the works of identity, given that in the order (better to recall it) the administrative judge specifies that this character “is not absolute and does not peremptorily exclude the work from the loan.” For the director general, then, “there is no conflict between sources of law,” and he urges us “not to simplify the reading of the system of sources,” because “the principle of hierarchy is attenuated in many cases.” “The great jurists explain to us,” he continues, “that even the so-called principle of ’certainty of law’ is not a given of the Italian legal system, as at the level of journalism is sometimes written, but is an ’aspiration.’” And he concludes “in general nothing in our society is more in crisis than the principle of hierarchy.” In short, the "far west" in lending, which we were writing about, does not seem to be exclusive to Sicily. He also suggests that we turn “to a jurist to comment on a ruling.” We, on the other hand, turned precisely to him, as the apex executive of the Cultural Heritage Administration, who is called upon to apply the regulations, and thus also to interpret them.

To us, who jurists we are not anyway, the impression remains that the assessment of the fragility of a masterpiece and of its being an identity asset for the museum that guards it is contained in the distance between two adverbs: “generally” and “however.”

And since the subject of loans seems to be shortening the distance from north to south, we also asked Montanari to comment, all the more so since it invokes the hierarchy of sources in law, on the Sicilian Region’s assessorial decree, which is of lower rank than state law (D.lgs. 42/2004), but nonetheless far superior to the note with the list of immovable assets of the Venetian museum, which, even, puts the authorization for the loan back in the hands of the political body (the Regional BBCC Councillor). While in no reform or pseudo-counter-reform in the state is there provision for the minister to replace the technical offices in authorizing the loan, since it is always the director who gives the okay, after hearing or informing other offices, in Sicily the loan is authorized “subject to the appreciation of the Assessore.” That is, the technical body (general manager) can only start the procedure after the political body has expressed its favorable opinion. “This is a very serious distortion,” comments the art historian, “an abuse incompatible with the 1990 law on public administration. And it makes clear what I have been saying since 2014: the real purpose of the Franceschini reform was and is to ’Sicilianize’ Italy, that is, to adopt the nefarious and disastrous model of the subjection of technical knowledge to political power.”

Unfortunately, in the specific case of loans, Sicily tells a somewhat different story, unprecedented in the cultural heritage sector: before the two technical aldermen Mariarita Sgarlata and Sebastiano Tusa, both of whom sadly passed away, put the authorization of loans back in the hands of politics, even in Sicily it was the museum directors who authorized them: that is how a political alderman had ruled.

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