Polish official withstands da Vinci purchase criticism

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine,’ circa 1490. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s culture minister survived a no-confidence vote Wednesday after he was accused of wasting public money for paying 100 million euros ($120 million) to a Polish-Spanish aristocrat for an art collection that includes Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine.”

In 2016, Piotr Glinski purchased the collection for Poland from Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, a cousin to Spain’s former King Juan Carlos. It has about 86,000 items including works by Rembrandt and objects of great historical value to the Poles.

Glinski’s critics argued that no transaction was needed at all as the collection had been originally intended as Poland’s property and had Polish connections dating back to the 18th century. It was started in the 1790s by Princess Izabela Czartoryska as a gift to Poland and has gone through much historical turmoil.

To make matters worse, Glinski’s opponents argued that the money that was expected to subsidy Poland’s culture through Czartoryski’s foundation was instead transferred to an account in Luxembourg.

The foundation argued the reason was, they said, Poland’s unclear financial regulations.

Glinski insisted that the artworks were not legally bound to Poland and that the purchase — for a sum being a fraction of their value — sealed Poland’s ownership of them.

He also implied that the Leonardo painting, which is Poland’s most precious work of art, hadn’t been properly cared for and had repeatedly traveled abroad, raising security concern among art experts.

Last year, another Leonardo work, the “Salvator Mundi,” was acquired by the United Arab Emirates’ new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum for a staggering $450 million.

On Wednesday, Glinski easily survived the no-confidence vote in parliament that is dominated by the ruling party. The vote was 237-188 with three abstentions to reject the motion.

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By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press

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