The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is seeking the early return several key loans to museums in Milan and Rome.
The news, which comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, was first reported in English by the Guardian.
The request for the returns was made in writing by Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky, and comes directly from the Russian ministry of culture, according to the Guardian.
“All outstanding loans must be returned from abroad to Russia,” Piotrovsky wrote in the letter. “The Hermitage is a state museum that depends on the ministry of culture.”
The works, which the Hermitage reportedly wants back by the end of March, include Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, lent to the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan; Titian’s Young Woman with Feather Hat and Giovanni Cariani’s Giovane donna con vecchio di profilo, both given to the Palazzo Reale, also in Milan; and Picasso’s Young Woman, on view at the Fondazione Fendi in Rome.
In addition, 22 more works included in the Gallerie d’Italia exhibition “Grand Tour: Dreams of Italy, From Venice to Pompeii” from four Russian museums will also be returned, a museum spokesperson said.
A representatives from the Palazzo Reale also confirmed the news, but Artnet News was unable immediately to reach the Hermitage or the Fondazione Fendi.
These are not the only Hermitage loans currently abroad. The Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution” includes three works from the Hermitage, including the famed Rothschild Fabergé egg clock, gifted to the museum in 2014 in a ceremony orchestrated and attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“To date we have not had any requests from the Russian ministry of culture to return the loans,” a V&A spokesperson told Arnet News.
Other important loans scheduled for the future have also been cancelled in recent days.
The National Gallery in London, which was due to include Raphael’s The Holy Family from the Hermitage collection, is no longer seeking the work for its forthcoming Raphael blockbuster.
“This was a decision we took last week and is therefore totally unrelated to the Hermitage asking for loans to be returned,” a National Gallery spokesperson told Artnet News.
Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage in recent days, with news that Western corporations such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola will withdraw from the country.