Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1516) is getting some new digs, at least temporarily. On the evening of July 16th, the painting along with its bulletproof encasement will move from the large concrete wall it’s called home for 14 years. Its new location will be in the Medici Gallery of the Louvre but the painting won’t be too far from its usual home, in fact, it will only be ‘100 paces’ from its notorious wall according to Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre.
The painting is moving to make way for renovations that are planned for Mona Lisa’s usual gallery. During its time next door, so to speak, that gallery will get a fresh coat of paint and better lighting to best showcase the larger works that flank Leonardo’s masterpiece including workings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. After nearly three months in the Medici Gallery, Mona Lisa will return to its home ahead of a massive exhibition honouring Leonardo da Vinci 500 years after his death that is bound to be a blockbuster.
The Louvre holds the largest number of works by da Vinci but the Mona Lisa is amongst one of main artworks that draws in thousands of visitors each day. Martinez stated that each day, ‘the population of a town’ filters through to see the famous painting. ‘We could not deprive 15,000 people a day from seeing the Mona Lisa,’ he continued of the move – the museum’s attendance even sparked a staff strike last month. This will be the gallery’s first major overhaul, though, since the early 2000s and it stands to be one of the only times the painting has moved in years. Mona Lisa, due to its thin panel of poplar wood, is quite fragile and hasn’t left the museum in 45 years. The painting’s last voyage was to Russia and Japan in 1974 and it only ever crossed the Atlantic once in 1964 to exhibit in the US – that trip received a lot of backlash from Louvre curators.
During the upcoming exhibition, simply named after the artist, of works by da Vinci, the painting will remain in its normal gallery to keep from bottlenecking the exhibition space. ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ will centre around the Mona Lisa, The Virgin of the Rocks (1483-1486), La Belle Ferronnière (1490), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and Saint Anne (1503). Organized by Vincent Delieuvin, of the museum’s Department of Paintings, and Louis Frank, of the Louvre’s Department of Prints and Drawings, the exhibition has been a decade in the making. It even caused tension between Italy and France concerning the loan of works by Italian museums.
Whether in its temporary summer home or on its usual wall, Mona Lisa, and the subsequent exhibition she’ll be a part of it bound to bring in extraordinary numbers and who knows, the museum might break its attendance record again this year.