ROME – More than 70 years after an oil painting depicting a panel of Leonardo da Vinci’s celebrated “Battle of Anghiari” was spirited away from Italy to enter into a succession of private collections, the work – tantalizingly attributed by some to the master himself – is going on display at Italy’s presidential palace until mid-January.
The Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, the most recent owner of the so-called Doria Panel, returned the painting to Italy this summer after officials here demanded its restitution, claiming that it had been illegally exported at the start of World War II. The Japanese museum had bought the work – which depicts “The Fight for the Standard” from Leonardo’s famous Battle of Anghiari mural – in good faith on the Japanese antiquarian market in 1992.
Several copies are known to exist of this scene from the Leonardo mural, which was painted in 1504 for Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and has been lost for some 500 years, despite numerous attempts to locate it.
The panel will be studied by experts to “determine its authenticity and attribution,” the deputy culture minister Roberto Cecchi said. The Doria Panel has alternately been attributed to Leonardo or to an unidentified 16th century Tuscan artist.
“The return allows for further research to be undertaken and for the work to be shown to the public,” Akira Gokita, the director of the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Mr. Gokita declined to say how much the museum had paid for the work, but Mr. Cecchi said the painting had been insured for 18 million euros.
In recent years, Italian officials have successfully negotiated for the return from international museums of numerous works that they said had been illegally removed from the country.
The painting will be provided for exhibition to the Japanese museum for four years on a rotating basis, according to the terms of the accord stipulated with the Italian culture ministry, along the lines of similar agreements that the ministry has with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which returned several antiquities to Italy.
The Japanese museum “has given a magnificent example,” said Louis Godart, counselor to the Italian president on matters of artistic conservation.