Get close to the Mona Lisa... in Virtual Reality

Anita Singh
The real painting will not be included in the museum's blockbuster Leonardo Da Vinci show - ullstein bild

Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre can be a disappointing experience - the painting sealed behind bulletproof glass, the viewer corralled 10 feet away with a sea of outstretched arms and camera phones blocking lines of sight.

The museum’s blockbuster Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition this October will change all that, offering each ticketholder the chance to get within touching distance of the masterpiece in an empty gallery. But there is a catch.

The unrivalled access will be delivered via a virtual reality (VR) headset, because the real painting will not be included in the show. A spokesman for the exhibition said it cannot deprive regular visitors of seeing the Louvre’s most popular artwork.

Instead, viewers will go into an empty room and put on the headset for an “immersive” experience in which the crowds magically evaporate and the wearer will “step behind the glass to access the intriguing portrait up close in an entirely new, transformative way”.

Every brushstroke will be clear, and a voiceover will explain Da Vinci’s methods with reference to the latest scientific research.

Entitled Mona Lisa: Beyond The Glass, it is the Louvre’s first VR experience and is being billed as “an intimate look at a painting which has been the subject of fascination and intrigue for generations”.

The real Mona Lisa may not be the only Da Vinci masterwork missing from the exhibition, which opens on October 24 and marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. 

There is still no announcement on whether the Salvator Mundi will be included in the show. It became the world’s most expensive painting when it sold for $450 million in 2017, but a question mark hangs over whether it truly is one of the artist’s works.

The Louvre has requested it on loan from its new owner, said to be Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but negotiations appear to have stalled.

It is said that Louvre curators wish to label it only as “from the workshop” of Leonardo, which would effectively render it all but worthless. The painting has not been seen in public since it was purchased and is reportedly being kept aboard the crown prince’s superyacht.

A Louvre spokesman said: “There is nothing new on this subject: the Musee du Louvre has asked for the painting for its exhibition and is waiting for an answer from the owner.”