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Louvre gets enough donations to buy Cranach masterpiece

Paris's Louvre museum said Friday it has now received the extra one million euros (1.4 million dollars) in donations it appealed for to buy a 16th century German masterpiece.

Five thousand donors contributed after the prestigious museum set up a website last month to call for funds to buy the Renaissance painting of "The Three Graces" by Lucas Cranach the elder.

The small work, painted in 1531 and always privately owned, shows three women against a dark background, wearing nothing but necklaces and, for the central figure, a red hat.

The owners were asking for four million euros for the work.

The Louvre had already collected three million euros from corporate donors and its own funds but needed the extra million to buy the painting, which it says is remarkable for its "astonishing perfection."

"It's a magnificent Christams present" for the Louvre, said the museum's director Loyrette. "It's a lovely surprise. We didn't think that it would be that fast."

The museum had set 31 January as the deadline for its bid to gather the money.

Most of the donors were French and gave between one and 40,000 euros. A dozen small French and foreign companies also contributed, the museum said.

In 1998 the Louvre made a similar appeal for donations to buy a work by the French painter Georges de La Tour.