News & Opinion | March 13, 2018 5:00 am

The ‘Mona Lisa’ May Leave the Louvre for the First Time in 44 Years

France's culture minister is "seriously considering" sending the painting on a tour of the country.

Mona Lisa By Leonardo Da Vinci. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Mona Lisa By Leonardo Da Vinci. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
UIG via Getty Images

Since the “Mona Lisa” was installed in the Louvre in 1804, it has left the Parisian museum on just a few occasions, but it has not left the institution’s walls for the past 44 years. But French culture minister Françoise Nyssen said that she is “seriously considering” sending Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece on a tour of France. During an interview with the radio station Europe 1, Nyssen said that she is in talks with the Louvre’s president about including the “Mona Lisa” in a traveling exhibition devoted to France’s biggest masterpieces. It is unclear if Nyssen’s plan includes sending the “Mona Lisa” outside of the country, where it has been based for the past 500 years. da Vinci began his most famous work in Florence in 1503 or 1504 and finished it after he moved to France in 1516. Upon his death in 1519, the French king Françios I purchased the painting and hung it at a gallery in Fontainebleau, his favorite palace. But during the 19th century, the painting spent several years in Napoleon’s bedroom in the Tuileries before being moved to the Louvre. In 1911, the masterpiece was swiped from the museum by Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian worker at the Louvre who wanted to bring the painting back to Italy. It was found two years later. It went on loan abroad in Washington, D.C. and New York in 1963 and then traveled to Russia and Japan in 1975. The Louvre rejected a request from the city of Florence in 2013 to bring the “Mona Lisa” back to its birthplace. Transporting such an important—and fragile—work of art comes with acute security and conservation concerns, but Nyssen said these challenges can be easily addressed.