Italian museums to return loaned works to Russian galleries

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MILAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Two museums in Milan will return several works of art on loan from Russia after requests for their early return, the Italian galleries said on Thursday, a further sign of broader tensions caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

The Hermitage Museum, based in St. Petersburg, wrote to Milan's Palazzo Reale asking for the return of two paintings - including 'Young woman with a feathered hat' by the Venetian painter Titian -- loaned for the 'Titian and the image of women in 16th century Venice' exhibition.

"I think the two works will be picked up by the end of March," said museum director Domenico Piraina, adding they cannot oppose the request.

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"Titian's work is certainly important but the exhibition can go ahead well without it," he said.

The exhibition started on Feb. 23 and will run until June 5.

"When I read the letter I felt bitter because culture should be protected from war but these are difficult times," Piraina added.

Gallerie d'Italia, which operates another museum in Milan, said it received a request for the return of 23 works out of nearly 200 in the current exhibition "Grand Tour. Dream of Italy from Venice to Pompeii," on loan from four Russian museums.

"The returns will occur near the exhibition's scheduled closing on 27 March," said a spokesperson for the Intesa Sanpaolo bank which owns the collection at the gallery and two other sites in Naples and Vicenza.

The Rome-based Fendi Foundation and another museum in northern city of Udine have received similar requests.

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Reporting by Sara Rossi Editing by Keith Weir and Aurora Ellis

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