500 years "Mona Lisa" - how much is the icon worth today?

Magazine, 10.10.2017

The smile of the "Mona Lisa" is a myth. The painting is not for sale. However, insurances must estimate a value for such objects of art as well.

ERGO congratulates to 500 years of "Mona Lisa". "Her mysterious smile has become a myth over the centuries," says Julia Ries, head of the art insurance department at ERGO. The masterpiece created by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 16th century has been exposed to many risks over the years. After it survived numerous wars mostly unscathed in the last 500 years, it was stolen in 1911 and didn't return to the Louvre until several years later. It has been exhibited there since 1797. Assassins tried to damage the painting repeatedly. Finally, it was placed in a bullet-proof glass case.

Can a painting like the "Mona Lisa" be insured?

"Objects of art can typically be insured against any risk, from vandalism to theft," says Ries. Insurers call this "all-risk insurance". "Specialists assign the Mona Lisa a value of 750 million to 1 billion US-Dollars," says Ries. The amount of the insurance premium, however, does not result from the value of the picture alone. "The premium is also calculated based on whether the piece of art is to be transported, e.g. to be exhibited abroad. Professional packing, transport by specialised art carriers and suitable safety measures at the exhibition site play an important role there," says Ries. The Mona Lisa travelled a little, too, after she was sent from Italy to France after her creator Leonardo da Vinci's death. She saw the USA, Japan and Russia in the 1960s and 1970s but has not left the Louvre in Paris anymore since.

Experts usually determine the conditions on site when an individual art insurance is to be offered. Lots of information is included in a detailed expert report, from the presence of alarm systems to the possible risk of sprinkler systems that may harm in particular paintings with their water, to the safe attachment of pieces of art. This is the basis on which the insurance offers coverage. A Facility Report is submitted for museum exhibitions, which provides the insurer with an overview of the local situation.

Pieces of art are often not properly insured

Along with the trend to invest in tangible assets, the art market has been booming for years. More and more individuals or investors have been investing considerable parts of their assets in art. Insurance expert Ries warns: "Unfortunately, valuable art and collection objects often are not insured at all, or only insufficiently, e.g. in a conventional household insurance. This is often limited to a few causes of danger: fire, tap water, storm, hail, burglary, vandalism. Simple theft, negligent damage, transport, restoration costs or damage-related value reduction are only covered by an adequate art insurance.

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