The iconic 1608 painting 'Sleeping Cupid' has been loaned to the island's newly established 'Museum of Faith and Dialogue for the Mediterranean' by Florence's Uffizi art gallery.
It is the first time the picture, which shows a baby boy sprawled out next to a broken bow and arrow, has been exhibited outside Florence since it was acquired by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici in 1610.
Authorities say the painting was especially chosen refugee exhibition because it draws parallels with a photo of a drowned refugee child which scandalized Europe in summer 2015.
“Aylan, the boy who was found dead on a Turkish beach last year, was reminiscent of the sleeping cupid,” Eike Schmidt, curator of the Uffizi gallery told Italian arts magazine Vita.
But Schmidt insisted the picture was meant to serve as a message of hope and not a morbid reminder of a terrible tragedy.
“The picture shows us that there is a positive alternative to death: love,” he added.
The Lampedusa museum has been set up as part of a joint initiative between refugee authorities on the island and the cultural ministries of Italy and Tunisia.
The exhibition will run until October 3rd and displays selected works of art donated by various museums in Italy and Tunisia.
The artwork will be accompanied by photos of refugees as well as objects recovered from the sea during rescue operations in the Mediterranean.