TOSHIBA LIGHTING & TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION > Projects > Louvre Project > Interview Mr. Lorenzo PIQUERAS

An Approach with Partitions and the Case in Mind. Mona Lisa Room Architect Mr. Lorenzo PIQUERAS
photo of Mr. Lorenzo PIQUERAS

Designed by Lefuel, the Salle des Etats, where the “Mona Lisa” is currently displayed, was built to accommodate major legislative sessions presided over by Napoleon III from 1859. When it was incorporated into the Louvre Museum in 1878, the original figurative decorations were removed, and French paintings from the 19th century were displayed in the room.

Renovation work that reflected the tastes of the times was performed in 1886 and 1950. There were various problems, however, with the environment in the Salle des Etats in which the “Mona Lisa” and many Venetian Renaissance paintings are exhibited, including illumination, air conditioning, visitor flow and acoustics. Large-scale renovation work was performed between 1998 and 2005 to address these issues.

I was confronted with the difficult problem of the “Mona Lisa” being in the same exhibition room as “The Wedding Feast at Cana” by Veronese, the largest painting at the Louvre which measures 6.66 meters by 9.90 meters. I needed to figure out a way not to make the “Mona Lisa”, which measures 77 centimeters by 53 centimeters and is situated opposite “The Wedding Feast at Cana”, look like a postage stamp. I introduced a partition in the exhibition room to solve this problem. This partition is in tum broken up by the glass casing which is in proportion to the painting. Such an arrangement both deals with the challenge presented by the dimensions of the “The Wedding Feast at Cana” and also facilitates the transition between the scale of the Salle des Etats and the size of the “Mona Lisa” decisively differentiating the “Mona Lisa” from the other paintings, and creating an environment that reflects its importance.

There were two other issues that needed to be taken into consideration during the large-scale renovation work. First, consistency needed to be maintained so that the flow of the periods of the Italian paintings exhibited in the large gallery was not broken. And secondly, a viewing environment which provided optimum lighting, comfort and security needed to be created for the “Mona Lisa” which would not inhibit appreciation of the other Italian paintings.

From the point of view of the visitor, the central positioning of the “Mona Lisa”, emphasised by its accentuated lighting, served an important role in addressing these issues. The lighting needed to have a colour that was as close as possible to natural light during the day, with shadows, shine and reflections eliminated so that the “Mona Lisa” could be viewed under the best possible conditions. I succeeded in protecting the “Mona Lisa” with a special glass case that I designed, but was faced with the problem of the painting appearing to have a greenish tinge caused by the glass.

I had hopes when I heard that the “Mona Lisa” would be illuminated with a new LED spotlight. I hoped that this renovation work would allow the light to be adjusted under a wide range of conditions in the true sense of these words. I must say that the new spotlight has corrected the greenish tone on the painting caused by the protective glass, and that it delicately brings out the original colour tones of the painting.

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