French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French Ambassador to Italy, in response to the Italian government’s support of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protest movement in France.
Italian Deputy Prime Ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio have both made multiple comments praising the Gilets Jaunes. Di Maio escalated tensions by meeting with Gilets Jaunes protesters and declaring that a “new Europe is being born.”
This dispute grew out of nationalist rhetoric, immigration policies, domestic politics, and European Union politics. However, Renaissance history also figures in the expanding Franco-Italian quarrels, as politicians and their supporters compete over the heritage of Leonardo da Vinci and Catherine de’ Medici.
A major exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci being organized at the Louvre Museum in Paris is now caught in the middle of the Franco-Italian dispute. The Guardian reports that “as Europe stages a year-long frenzy of events to mark 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Italy and France are engaged in a diplomatic tussle over him that threatens a blockbuster exhibition at the Louvre in Paris.”
Illaria Maria Sala observes that “The Louvre museum in Paris, where the Mona Lisa is exhibited, has been preparing to commemorate later this year the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. The painting became the property of Francis I, a king of France and da Vinci’s patron, after da Vinci’s death in France in the early 16th century — a time when the concept of Italy as a nation was shaky at best. Last year, Italy promised to contribute to the special exhibit by lending the Louvre major, sumptuous pieces, but the new government is mulling how to renege on that pledge.”
Meanwhile, Italian politicians are engaging in “French-bashing,” according to Sala, using an array of Renaissance historical references to claim Italian superiority. For example, “a popular myth has resurfaced on Twitter in these fractious days about how both haute cuisine and humble utensils were introduced to the French court by Catherine de Medici, after she was sent from Florence to Paris to marry Henry II in 1533.”
Illaria Maria Sala’s op-ed was published by The New York Times. See The Guardian for a report on Salvini and Di Maio’s support of the Gilets Jaunes. The Guardian also reports on the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the Louvre.