Paris’ Musée du Louvre has unveiled a brand new Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, set up to mark the 500-year anniversary of the esteemed painter’s death. As well as displaying 160 unique pieces of the work, the exhibition includes something truly special; a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to actually interact with the Mona Lisa in 3D.

A woman interacts with a virtual version of the Mona Lisa
The new Da Vinci exhibition at the Louvre includes a special VR Mona Lisa experience © Courtesy HTC Vive Arts and Emissive

The exhibition aims to illustrate the importance Da Vinci placed on art, and how he sought to bring life to his work through what he referred to as “the science of painting”. Alongside its own collection of five paintings by Leonardo and 22 of his drawings, the Louvre will display more than 135 other works in the form of manuscripts, sculptures and objects from some of the most prestigious European and American institutions, including the Royal Collection, the British Museum, the National Gallery in London, the Vatican Pinacoteca, and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Léonardo de Vinci 2019
A view of the exhibition © Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin

The exhibition concludes with a virtual reality experience developed in partnership with HTC Vive that allows visitors to get closer than ever to the Mona Lisa. Called Mona Lisa: Behind the Glass, it presents the opportunity for guests to approach the painting and have a personal encounter with it in the virtual space. The seven-minute immersive experience sees participants donning a headset and stepping in front of a version of the painting with the protective glass and frame removed. Alone with the famous masterpiece, the viewer can see the vivid details of the oil painting, including the texture of the wood panel seen through the paint layer.

Mona Lisa up close detail.PNG
Visitors can see the intricate details of the painting like never before © Courtesy HTC Vive Arts and Emissive

The VR experience combines moving image, sound and interactive design to create something engaging for visitors. Guests can see first-hand how Da Vinci used the sfumato technique, which involved numerous layers of thinly applied paint making the transition from shadow to light almost invisible. 

“Da Vinci was a profoundly creative thinker who innovated across the disciplines of art and technology. Virtual reality as an inherently interdisciplinary medium enables today’s creative practitioners to transcend the boundaries between fields that were once considered to be more separated. By using VR to tell the story of this renowned artwork, and to present it in a heightened, intimate setting, we hope visitors to the Louvre will have an enriched experience,” said Victoria Chang, Director of Vive Arts at HTC.

15. Léonard de Vinci, Étude de figure pour la Bataille d’Anghiari © Szépművészeti Múzeum - Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, 2019.jpg
Study of a Figure for the Battle of Anghiari © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, 2019

The project is the culmination of more than ten years of work, including new scientific examinations of the Louvre’s paintings and the conservation treatment of three of them (the Saint Anne, La Belle Ferronnière, and the Saint John the Baptist), allowing for better understanding of Da Vinci’s artistic practice and technique. The exhibition also aims to shed light on the painter’s biography through the re-examination of historical documentation.

More information on the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition is available at the official Louvre website.

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