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There Is Something So Special About This Leonardo Portrait It Was Hidden ‘To Prevent the Nazis From Taking It’

"...an intelligence operation saw it transported in absolute anonymity to Rome."

Leonardo da Vinci's art is universally revered — but there's something particularly special about this one specific piece.

Image source: Central Institute for the Restoration and Preservation of Archival and Library Heritage, Rome Image source: Central Institute for the Restoration and Preservation of Archival and Library Heritage, Rome

Legend has it that simply staring into the gaze of this 500-year-old self-portrait transfers great strength to the onlooker.

In fact, the legend was apparently so strong that some credit its perceived powers — and not economical value — for steps taken during World War II to secretly move the portrait from Turin to Rome during World War II.

"To prevent the Nazis from taking it, an intelligence operation saw it transported in absolute anonymity to Rome," the current director of the Royal Library in Turin told the BBC.

The idea at the time was seemingly to avoid Adolf Hitler from gaining possession of the portrait, staring into it and possibly gaining its magical powers.

According to the BBC, it was the only work from the entire collection of drawings and manuscripts to be removed from the Royal Library in Turin at the time.

The piece has since returned to Turin and onlookers will have a chance to travel to the Italian city to stare into Leonardo's gaze and possibly inherit the art's mystical powers. The fading red chalk sketch has only been displayed in public three times in the past century.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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