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A room of her own: Louvre to give ‘disappointing’ Mona Lisa new digs

A room of her own: Louvre to give ‘disappointing’ Mona Lisa new digs
A room of her own: Louvre to give ‘disappointing’ Mona Lisa new digs Copyright Public Domain
Copyright Public Domain
By David Mouriquand
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France’s Louvre could move the Mona Lisa to her own basement room. Here’s why.

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She’s the world’s most famous and most visited work of art, with up to ten million admirers per year.

Her enigmatic smile has been idolised by art lovers, and even targeted by thieves, soup-loving protesters, and even a man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair who threw cake in her face.

But now, a new project may prove the last queen of France Marie Antoinette right, as she found her “too small, too dark.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting "Mona Lisa" is about to be moved, in order to give La Gioconda more space. And appease visitors.

Indeed, with Louvre visitors getting an average of 50 seconds to admire the "Mona Lisa", which is displayed behind a barrier and bullet-proof glass in the centre of the Salle des Etats (glass installed in the 1950s to protect it after an acid attack), many have dubbed it the world's most disappointing masterpiece.

Understandable really, as the huge crowds and limited space in the gallery means it’s difficult to see Mona Lisa.

Visitors crowded in front of Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'Mona Lisa' at Musée du Louvre in Paris
Visitors crowded in front of Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'Mona Lisa' at Musée du Louvre in ParisMarkus Schreiber/AP

Faced with this problem, the Parisian museum’s director is now proposing to place da Vinci’s chef d’oeuvre in isolation to improve the experience.

“Moving Mona Lisa to a separate room could end the public’s disappointment,” said Laurence des Cars, the museum’s director. “Visitors are not being properly received in the current room so we feel that we’re not doing our job properly.”

A new dedicated space for "Mona Lisa", which currently hangs opposite Paolo Veronese’s overlooked "Wedding at Cana", makes sense - for both da Vinci’s painting and its attention-starved neighbours.

Vincent Delieuvin, chief curator of 16th-century Italian painting, told French newspaper Le Figaro: “We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but this time everyone is in agreement.”

“It’s a large room, and the Mona Lisa is at the back, behind its security glass, so at first glance it looks like a postage stamp.

“Leonardo da Vinci wanted to establish a face-to-face relationship between the painting and the person contemplating it.”

Sounds good, but the initiative would involve quite the renovation, including opening a new entrance to the Louvre palace (in the façade of the colonnade), and the creation of two new rooms in the basement under the square courtyard of the Louvre. One of the “underground chambers” would serve as a setting for "Mona Lisa". And while that may help with the queue situation and allow visitors direct access, all that would be to the tune of roughly €500 million - which is hardly music to the ears of the French government and its culture budget cuts.

The Ministry of Culture is reportedly in favour of the new Grand Louvre project, but finance minister Bruno Le Maire will have to be convinced. Le Maire has already said he hopes to claw back €25 billion in savings for the 2025 budget and has urged the cultural sector to do its fair share.

However, that does not deter the museum.

“The mood in the museum is now ripe,” said des Cars. “We have to embrace the painting’s status as a global icon, which is beyond our control.”

Additional sources • Le Figaro

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