WARSAW (AP).- It's finally been decided: Poland's most precious painting, "Lady with an Ermine" by Leonardo da Vinci, will be allowed to travel to Spain, Germany and Britain.
Wednesday's decision came after almost a year of discussion by art experts and Poland's Culture Ministry about whether the 15th-century masterpiece should be allowed to leave the country.
Last week, art conservators warned it could be damaged in transit.
But Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said the government decided the masterpiece can travel. It will now be shown at three foreign sites for three months each: Madrid's Palacio Real starting in May, Berlin's Gemaeldegalerie, starting in August and London's National Gallery, starting in November.
In February it will return to Krakow, where it has been for more than 100 years, and where it will be submitted to detailed examination of its condition. It will remain in Krakow at least until 2022.
The owners of the painting, a private family foundation that has been lobbying for it to be put on temporary display outside the country, expressed satisfaction with the ministry's decision.
"We are happy that reason prevailed," said Maria Osterwa-Czekaj, deputy head of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation.
She said her foundation will earn "thousands of euros" with the foreign exhibitions for the needs of a museum it runs, but would not disclose the exact amount. She said the foundation believes it is important to make the painting available for the general public and art historians at the Berlin exhibition, which will feature masterpieces of Renaissance portrait painting, and at the London event, to be dedicated solely to Leonardo da Vinci.
In Madrid, it will help represent Poland's culture abroad.
Osterwa-Czekaj also argued that the state-of-the-art methods of transportation of works of art made it safe for the painting to be moved.
Da Vinci painted the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani on a chestnut board around the year 1490. It has belonged to the Czartoryski family since the early 19th century.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.