Sitting in front of a printout of a grand Neoclassical painting, Brigitte Fouré, the mayor of a city and commune in northern France, appealed to an unexpected recipient through the camera.
That connection? Madonna, Fouré said, may have purchased in 1989 a 19th-century work of art — “Diana and Endymion” by Jérôme-Martin Langlois — that went missing from the Amiens fine-art museum more than a century ago amid the heavy bombardment of World War I.
And now, the city wants it back on loan as it seeks to be named a “European Capital of Culture” for 2028 by the European Union. It’s a designation that includes a celebration of arts and heritage, and that normally brings a boost in tourism.
But it’s unclear if Madonna even bought the painting — or if what she allegedly has is merely a replica.
This month, France’s Le Figaro newspaper published a report on the painting’s history and what it said was Madonna’s apparent acquisition of it at a New York auction 34 years ago. Representatives for the singer did not respond to requests for comment.
Sotheby’s associate press officer Adrienne DeGisi told The Washington Post that the fine-arts company and broker could not comment on who bought the painting. A copy of the original October 1989 catalogue, provided by DeGisi, describes the painting sold by Sotheby’s as a “replica” with the same title and identical dimensions of the original Langlois painting, “now destroyed.”
The price of the sale at the time, she added, was $440,000. The catalogue entry also cites the artist’s descendant Marianne Froté-Langlois, whom DeGisi said “considered the painting to be a replica of the lost Amiens original.”
Le Figaro said that a museum curator spotted the painting in an image of the inside of Madonna’s home published by Paris Match, a weekly magazine, in 2015. It had long been considered untraceable — or even destroyed in the war.
The newspaper noted, however, that the painting lacked a signature and a stamp. It also reported that the dimensions of the original painting and the one that was sold differed by about 3 centimeters, or 1.2 inches.
The painting depicts three figures: the Roman goddess Diana, shepherd prince Endymion and a small Cupid-like figure floating between them. It was commissioned by Louis XVIII in the early 19th century and was meant to hang at Versailles, Le Figaro reported.
Fouré urged the residents of Amiens to echo her call to bring the painting back home for a while.
“Amienois, Amiénis, you also have a role to play,” she said in the video. “Share this message massively so it reaches Madonna! I’m counting on you!”