Vladimir Putin: Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is particularly pleasant for me to be here today. I was just telling the director of the Hermitage how as a student, and even as a schoolboy, I came to the Hermitage Museum many times just to look at a number of paintings that were especially inspiring to me. The first of them was the Madonna Litta. So now I feel as if I am next to something close and familiar. In situations like these, you can say you “almost feel like you are at home.”
In Russia, we do not just think of Leonardo da Vinci as the first artist of Europe. We think of him as a humanist and a scholar. The work of da Vinci, like the work of many other Italians, is the best evidence of Italy’s enormous contribution to world culture.
This is something that truly unites us. As you rightly said, reproductions of this painting can be found in the homes of many ordinary Russian citizens.
This exhibition is an answer to an exhibition by our Italian friends, who brought a painting by Titian to Moscow during a visit by the Italian President. There are many exchanges ahead, such as the large-scale exhibition “Russia-Italy: Through the Centuries,” but the exposition of the Madonna Litta here is still a special event. At any rate, it is special for us.
We value this painting very highly, and it has only left the Hermitage twice before since the museum acquired it in 1865. The first time was during the Second World War, when there was a real threat to it and it was taken to a safe place. The second time, at the end of the 1980s, it was shown in Milan. And now it is in Rome. I think that here, on the highest hill in Rome, in its homeland, it will feel good and give pleasure to many art lovers.
Specialists have different interpretations of what is depicted here, and I listened to the version of our Italian colleague with interest. But everyone has their own interpretation when they come into contact with a brilliant work of art. The Madonna is indeed looking at the infant Christ. But he, the Saviour, looks at us, and seems to say, “I know that it is hard for you, but I am with you.”
Thank you very much for the opportunity to show the Madonna Litta here.
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi: Mr President, we are glad to welcome the Madonna Litta which has been temporarily lent to us by the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to the Quirinal Palace.
The visitors who will have access to the Quirinal Palace will be able to enjoy the masterpiece until December 10; the masterpiece that brings back memories of one of the most brilliant periods in European history, the Renaissance, and is associated with the name of its foremost representative, Leonardo da Vinci.
Renaissance art puts man and his reason at the focus of the universe and promotes the cult of beauty, the cult of success and the cult of knowledge as common elements of European thought.
Da Vinci, who created his works in accordance with the ancient ideals of the beautiful, became the first great European artist by vocation.
During his life he worked in Florence, Milan, Mantua, Venice, Romagna, Rome and France. He was an Italian artist who promoted the spirit and ideals of the Renaissance in European courts.
The admiration and affection that the Russian people feel for the Madonna Litta proves the relevance of his message.
The love of art brings people together. By allowing us to display one of the Hermitage’s masterpieces here, Russia pays tribute to Italian culture and contributes to the creation of a European museum space which is the dream of all the inhabitants of the Old Continent who share the values of liberty and democracy and remember the lessons of history.