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“The Three Graces” go online

From the 16th Century to the Internet Age

“The Three Graces”, painted in 1531 by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was deemed a Trésor National of France in July 2009. Having acquired the status of a national treasure, the Louvre acquired a right of first refusal until the end of January 2011. In November 2010, The Louvre launched a campaign to gather funds necessary to acquire the work.

How would the ancient and prestigious museum go about acquiring a 16th-century masterpiece? By using the internet, of course.

The museum’s web campaign was a wild success. In less than one month, over 5,000 web donors helped raise over 1,000,000 Euros. The work will go on on display in March 2011 and will accede to the Louvre’s collection after April 2011.

According to the New York Times, this was not the first time that the Louvre had launched a public campaign in 1988 to help finance the acquisition of a work. However, this marks the first time that the internet has been used, emphasizing the democratic and populist nature of the effort.

The internet may be an important tool in dissipating people’s perceptions of museums as elitist institutions. According to the Code of Ethics of the International Council of Museums, “Museums that maintain collections hold them in trust for the benefit of society and its development.” Even a German Renaissance masterpiece based on Greek mythology, admittedly esoteric, can become a public good. By launching this campaign, the Art Market Monitor, says that “the Louvre made the first steps toward truly making art held in museums a public trust[.]”

[Photo: REUTERS/Stringer, at Art Daily]