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If the Louvre was on fire and you had to choose between saving an unconscious person or the Mona Lisa, what would you do? You are a scholar and curator at the museum and nobody will know who or what you saved. You are not in harm’s way.
I’ll go with the painting too. Even if I’m not a visual arts kind of guy.
I won’t do a long justification of that; others have, pro and con, mostly jocular.
Some have been less jocular. But you know what? Doodles do matter.
And even though Tom Groves meant it jocularly, well, when he says:
People die all the time, You can’t save ’em all. The real world is not like Pokemon.
… he’s not wrong.
It’s from a very different context, but see Yannis Makriyannis quote from Nick Nicholas’ answer to Did Greeks in the Ottoman age feel Greek or Roman? Why was Greek identity chosen and not Roman when fighting for independence?
I had two fine statues, a woman and a prince, intact—you could see the veins on them, that’s how perfect they were. Some soldiers had taken them and they were going to sell them to some Europeans, for a thousand thalers. I went over, I took the soldiers aside, and spoke to them. “These statues, even if they give you ten thousand thalers, don’t you stoop to letting them be taken out of our country. These are what we fought for.”
EDIT: Oh, and to encapsulate some other points made by Tom and Linda?
How many people now mourn Morosini blowing up the Parthenon?
How many people now mourn the soldiers Morosini blew up along with the Parthenon?