France’s top administrative court on Tuesday rejected a claim for the famous Mona Lisa masterpiece from an unknown association that says it represents the heirs of the painter Leonardo da Vinci.

The claim by International Restitutions – who claims to be acting “on behalf of the painter’s heirs” – said that the former French king Francis I appropriated the world-famous painting in 1519.

The organisation, whose head office and directors are unknown, said the painting should be removed from the Louvre Museum in Paris and returned to its “rightful owners”. 

The Mona Lisa has been in the Louvre since 1797.

The high court called the claim unlawful and ordered the association to pay a 3,000 euros ($3,200) fine for “abusive” proceedings.

The court also ruled that it was not for the court to examine “decisions” taken under the French monarchy.

The Mona Lisa has been in France since 1516 when Leonardo da Vinci came under the protection of Francis I.

Upon leaving Italy, da Vinci had carried a number of his paintings, including the portrait of the Mona Lisa, which was painted between 1503 and 1506.

He offered his works to the French sovereign in exchange for a large pension.

These artworks entered the royal collections and never left France.

The Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, welcomed close to nine million visitors in 2023.

The museum’s president has said 80 per cent of them – 20,000 people per day –braved the crowd to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, often taking selfies in front of the painting.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.