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At Louvre, a Brawl Over a da Vinci

Some argue Leonardo's masterpiece was 'overcleaned'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2011 10:48 AM CST

(Newser) – Who knew art historians could duke it out like this? The Louvre finds itself embroiled in a big brouhaha regarding its recent restoration of a Leonardo da Vinci painting. Two of France's preeminent art experts, who sit on the museum's 20-person committee tasked with overseeing art restoration, have resigned, furious about what they call the "overcleaning" of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. The two say that the 500-year-old masterpiece now features a brightness not painted by da Vinci himself, reports the Telegraph.

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On the other side: The British, who believe the restoration was done appropriately. Two experts from London's National Gallery were apparently "very pushing," a source tells the Telegraph, "saying they know Leonardo is extremely delicate but 'we can move without any danger to the work.'" And the fight is nothing new: There was an argument last year about the safety of the solvents used; and the cleaning comes 17 years after the Louvre initially abandoned an attempt over worries that the solvents were altering the painter's use of sfumato (a method of painting in which there are no sharp outlines). But the Louvre's head of paintings jumps to the museum's defense, saying, "Rarely has a restoration been as well prepared, discussed, and effected, and never will it have benefited from such effective techniques." (Read more art restoration stories.)

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