Louvre asks public to fund prayer book’s return to France

A prayer book (1532) that belongs to a private British collector, and which was once owned by the court of French King Francois I (1494-1547) is displayed during a crowdfunding campaign, at the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. The Louvre museum hopes to bing back to France one of the French Renaissance's most prized decorative art pieces. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — The Louvre museum in Paris is calling on the public to help bring back one of the French Renaissance’s greatest decorative works of art.

The Book of Hours prayer book — a manuscript bound in gold and encrusted with emerald, ruby and turquoise gemstones — belonged to France’s King Francis I, who gifted the treasure to his 10-year-old niece during the 16th century.

Deemed by experts to be a masterpiece, the book now belongs to a private collector in Britain.

The Louvre says it needs 10 million euros ($11.8 million) to acquire the piece. Luxury group LVMH has pledged half of the money. The museum hopes to raise the rest through a crowdfunding campaign and donations from companies.

Louvre President Jean-Luc Martinez says the Book of Hours would become one of the Louvre’s iconic pieces alongside the Mona Lisa.