For decades, the Mona Lisa has been drawing thousands of visitors to the Louvre. The painting that frames the world’s most memorable woman might now leave the museum’s premises after 44 years, to take a trip across France.

During an interview with a radio station, Europe 1, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen reportedly admitted that she had been mulling over the idea of making the Mona Lisa part of a prominent travelling exhibition that would feature a collection of renowned masterpieces.

The Mona Lisa has had a complex history. It first left the Louvre’s gates in August 1911, when a museum staff member named Vincenzo Peruggia nicked the painting in order to return it to his home country, Italy. Two years later, the painting was discovered in Peruggia’s hotel room. In 1963, the painting was given on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It made another journey in 1974, visiting Japan and the Soviet Union.

Leonardo da Vinci, it is believed, began painting the Mona Lisa in Florence sometime between 1503-06, completing it only in 1516 after moving to France, under the patronage of king François I. In 1800, the painting was hung on the wall of Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom in Tuileries Palace, before finally finding a home at the Louvre.

Nyssen believes that works of centuries of great cultural import shouldn’t be restricted to one place. “My priority is to work against cultural segregation, and a large-scale plan for moving them around is a main way of doing that," she told Europe 1.

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