With Leonardo Da Vinci’s famed self-portrait gearing up for a rare public exhibit in Italy, it’s a good time to look back at the in-freaking-sane history of said sketch.
For one: Did you know the above painting was removed and hidden from the Royal Library in Turin, Italy, during World War II — possibly because it might have magical powers and they didn’t want Hitler to have a chance of getting his sadistic little paws on it?
The da Vinci self-portrait was the only item removed from the extensive museum collection and taken to Rome for safekeeping during World War II, and BBC News reports that one reason for the relocation was that many believed the picture possessed magical abilities that could give the person looking at it super strength if they stared deeply into Da Vinci’s eyes.
The move was taken so seriously that no one from the museum even knew where it was taken. The library's current director, Giovanni Saccani, noted that an “intelligence operation” had to move in “absolute anonymity” to be sure it wouldn’t fall into Nazi control. Looking back, Saccani notes that little field trip has also contributed to damage and degradation to the piece — because they didn’t have the luxury of fancy preservation techniques at the time.
To this day, da Vinci’s self-portrait is subject to a state decree of immovability, meaning it can only leave the museum with ministerial permission. If it is ever moved, they use a special box to maintain the same air conditioning from the storage area, then place the sketch in three cases worth of protection to prevent vibrations.
If you’re around Italy over the next few weeks, drop by and give da Vinci a good stare — and give us a heads-up if you get magical powers.
(Via BBC News)