To mark the upcoming exhibition celebrating the 500-year anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci in France, the Salle des États is reopening on October 7, 2019. Following ten months of exhaustive renovations, during four of which the room was closed to the public, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa now returns to its rightful place opposite the Louvre’s largest painting, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, and alongside the work of the great Venetian masters from the 16th century.
All renovations were undertaken with an enhanced visitor experience in mind. The masterpieces are accompanied with new written and translated material, and visitor traffic flow has been reorganized to give everyone the opportunity to view the artworks on display, even during peak attendance periods. Other improvements include the installation of new lighting, refurbished floors, and walls repainted in a shade of midnight blue that gives special prominence to the artworks, as well as a state-of-the-art glass panel that offers clearer visibility of the Mona Lisa.
The objectives were to:
– Refresh a room that has had over a hundred million visitors since its previous renovation fifteen years ago.
– Improve visibility of the Mona Lisa.
– Create a smoother flow of traffic through the museum space and thus improve the quality of the visitor experience.
– Showcase the Venetian masterpieces on display with new lighting and a different shade on the walls to give depth to the room, as well as to highlight the splendor of the frames and the palette of colors used in the Venetian school of painting.
Renovations began in January by removing all of the artworks on display, with the exception of The Wedding Feast at Cana, which was housed in a protective case during the work, and the Mona Lisa, which remained in the room for the first six months. In March, a selection of Venetian masterpieces was exhibited in one of the rooms in the Passage Mollien. In order for the work to proceed smoothly, the Mona Lisa was moved to the Galerie Médicis in July.
The architecture of the room was preserved in consultation with Lorenzo Piqueras, the architect and designer in charge of the previous renovation (2001–2005). Only the walls were redone in a new shade of midnight blue to heighten the contrast with the great Venetian masters’ rich palette of colors and to create a sense of depth. The reds, yellows, oranges, and greens typical of this period are enhanced by the shine of the gilded frames. To provide continuity with the neighboring Salles Rouges, the new color is a very dense shade of blue enriched with subtle variations of black.
The display of artworks in this striking setting was almost entirely renewed to give museum regulars and new visitors alike a better appreciation of the only collection of Venetian paintings of its kind outside of Venice. Spectacular or dramatic monumental compositions such as The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, Christ Crowned with Thorns by Titian, and The Deposition by Jacopo Bassano share space with more intimate or melancholic canvases such as Man with a Glove and The Pastoral Concert by Titian.
With 7 to 8 million visitors passing through the Salle des États each year, the floor required a thorough cleaning and was thus fully stripped and waxed.
VIEWING THE MONA LISA
Displaying the Mona Lisa in the Grande Galerie from 1992 to 1995 made sense from a historical perspective, but the location could not accommodate the crowds of visitors. Lorenzo Piqueras proposed a viable solution in the early 2000s, showcasing the artwork up high on a separate wall in the largest room of the palace to allow as many people to see it as possible.
Visitor surveys conducted since then have shown that 80% of visitors come to see the Mona Lisa (64% of whom are first-time visitors to the Louvre), making the Salle des États the museum’s traffic “nerve center.” Half of those who enter the room only look at the Mona Lisa and The Wedding Feast at Cana. Visitors spend an average of 3 to 4 minutes near the Mona Lisa and approximately 50 seconds observing it.
Until now, visitors were directed down either side of a dedicated space in front of the Mona Lisa. Many visitors thus found themselves trapped in congestion near the artwork; only the tallest and most perseverant visitors managed to view the painting, and those with a lower eye level (children and people with mobility issues, who represent 18% of visitors) were not provided with quality viewing conditions. While the level of satisfaction following the visit to the Salle des États remained high, the frustration of being unable to view the painting properly and the personal discomfort caused by such close proximity to others reduced the quality of the visitor experience.
The Mona Lisa is an almost life-sized portrait (the poplar wood panel measures 79.4 x 53 cm) that was designed by Leonardo da Vinci to interact with the viewer, but the majority of visitors could not get close enough to do so.
The new layout of the Salle des États aims to improve the display of both the Mona Lisa and the paintings of the Venetian school.
FOCUS ON THE PUBLIC
The artwork information labels are now bilingual and the room panels are trilingual. Four alcoves provide a space for visitors to rest in each corner of the room and include a spotlight panel with keys to observing and understanding the Mona Lisa.
The new glass protecting the Mona Lisa boasts advanced anti-reflective technology for clearer visibility, while maintaining an extremely high level of security. The masterpiece stands out more distinctly against the dark background that eliminates any effect of light from behind.
Based on visitor analyses, the new layout creates traffic areas to allow for viewing of the Venetian paintings as well as access to the Mona Lisa. In the event of large crowds, two stanchioned lines in the center of the room prevent any congestion in front of the Mona Lisa: all visitors who wish to approach the painting will be able to do so one after the other. A dedicated line will give people with reduced mobility and children direct access to the painting. The two corridors on either side of this central area dedicated to the Mona Lisa have been enlarged for better viewing of the exceptional collection of 16th-century Venetian paintings (primarily Veronese, but also Titian and Tintoretto).
RENOVATING THE PERMANENT COLLECTION GALLERIES: A SILENT REVOLUTION
The “Grand Louvre” project and the Pyramid were completed 30 years ago. Since then, museum attendance has surged to unprecedented levels, with visitor numbers more than doubling. In 2014, the museum embarked on the largest renovation campaign since the “Grand Louvre” project: more than 34,000 m² of the museum have been renovated, including 17,579 m² of galleries and 16,520 m² of reception and office space.
To showcase the Louvre collection, which is one of the richest in the world, museum gallery renovations are scheduled around the exhibition program. The renovation work on the galleries of French (from the 16th to the 19th centuries) and Northern European painting (Netherlands/Flanders, from the 15th to the 19th centuries), as well as the 18th- and 19th-century French sculpture galleries, thus coincided with the exhibitions on Hubert Robert, Bouchardon, Valentin de Boulogne, Vermeer, François I and Dutch art, and Delacroix, to name a few. The renovations of the Etruscan and Italic galleries, which began during the Campana collection exhibition, are currently underway.
The Louvre aims to draw on the aura surrounding the Mona Lisa to encourage visitors to rediscover its world-renowned collection of Italian paintings.
TEXT FROM THE SALLE DES ÉTATS ROOM PANEL
The Mona Lisa
Venetian Painting in the 16th Century
One of the palace’s largest rooms, the Salle des États was built to accommodate extraordinary legislative sessions as part of an expansion project undertaken by Emperor Napoleon III (reigned 1852–1870). Since 1952, the gallery has been home to an exceptional collection of 16th-century Venetian paintings—one of the biggest of its kind outside of Venice. Known for its masterful use of color, the Venetian school comprised Renaissance masters like Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, whose Wedding Feast at Cana—on display in this room—is the museum’s largest painting. One of the world’s most famous paintings, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, has been exhibited here since 1966.
– 698 m² of floor space
– 2,700 m² refurbished (walls / ceiling / window frames)
– 57 tons of scaffolding
– 43 paintings installed, including The Wedding Feast at Cana and the Mona Lisa
– 660 liters of paint
– 60 liters of wax
– 300 liters of varnish
– 3,174 hours open annually
An average of 8 million visitors per year, with a total of 100 million since the last renovation.
Opening hours: every day (except Tuesdays) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Admission: €15 (collections and exhibitions). Time slot reservations ensuring entry within 30 minutes: €17
Online ticket sales: www.ticketlouvre.fr
Further information: www.louvre.fr/en