Italy Calls Off Israel Loan of Botticelli Masterpiece Due to Syria Fears

Cancellation comes just two weeks before 'The Annunciation of San Martino alla Scala' was to be transported to Jerusalem.

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With tensions high in the Mediterranean over Syria, Italy has decided it's not the right time to send a Botticelli masterpiece on loan to Israel.

Italy's culture ministry said Thursday it has decided against transporting the 15th--century "The Annunciation of San Martino alla Scala" from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where it was supposed to go on display for several months starting September 17. The ministry cited geopolitical and logistical considerations.

The ministry, citing the importance of Italian-Israeli relations, expressed hope that the Renaissance work would soon go on display in Jerusalem.

The nixed loan was a result of collaboration between the Jerusalem museum and the Italy-Israel Foundation for Culture and the Arts, orchestrated to mark the 65th anniversary of Israel's establishment.

The chef d'oeuvre portrays the announcement made by angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would be carrying the son of God. The Early Renaissance artist had painted several versions of the biblical scene. The one that was meant to arrive in Israel bears the name of the San Martino alla Scala hospital in Florence, where it was painted in 1481.

The painting, which had incurred some damage over the years, reached the Uffizi Gallery in 1920 and was restored there. This would have been the first time a Botticelli piece is displayed in Israel.  

Detail from Sandro Botticelli's 'Annunciation.'Credit: Bloomberg

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