Mona Lisa VR – Beyond the Glass

mona lisa VR 3D museum experience

This post is also available in: Italiano

Virtual reality is about to make its debut even at the Louvre, with the exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death. Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass is officially part of the cultural offer with a location-based version at the exhibition site and an online downloadable experience, fully usable remotely.

“Beyond the glass” explicitly projects us into an experience which reveals many details that it would be impossible to grasp when you stand in front of the glass case that protects the Mona Lisa. Every day, over 20 thousand people physically admire, through the showcase, the most famous artwork of the Louvre and, arguably, of the whole world of art.

Virtual reality allows visitors to appreciate various aspects of Leonardo’s vision, highlighting the groundbreaking and multidisciplinary spirit of his work, a constant that has characterised his entire production, from painting to the design of the futuristic machines that have inspired many real inventions over the following centuries.

Mona Lisa VR - Beyond the Glass - Leonardo 3D Experience
The three-dimensional reproduction of the analytical layers enables the observer to isolate and understand directly and effectively all the details and meanings that the Mona Lisa conceals, upon which many interpretations have been formulated. The aura of mystery surrounding some details such as the smile of the female figure portrayed has been one of the main reasons for the incredible notoriety of Leonardo’s work. (credit: HTC Vive Arts)
Virtual reality as a marketing tool and a means to access culture

Virtual reality allows the viewer to dive into an in-depth analysis which, in the case of artistic contents, often translates into a real journey back in time. We have already experienced this concept with The Ocher Atelier – Modigliani VR, the project that recreated the Parisian atelier of the famous artist from Livorno and allowed viewers to visit it virtually. The Ocher Atelier was part of the exhibition that the Tate Gallery of London dedicated to Amedeo Modigliani in 2018.

Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, originated from a similar intention, to spread culture, and is also published on Viveport, the VR content platform of HTC Vive. As long as you have an HTC VR headset, you can download the experience and immerse yourself in culture without having to go to Paris. The digital sharing of cultural contents is a very effective tool in marketing strategies, which stimulates curiosity among users and encourages them to visit the exhibition at the museum that promotes it. The words of Victoria Chang, the director of HTC Vive Arts, confirm this assumption: “Through this new experience, global audiences will be able to access the Mona Lisa in virtual space, seeing the work in detail from anywhere in the world. Allowing visitors who may not be able to visit the exhibition in person to access this remarkable masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci through our home version will give unprecedented access to da Vinci’s most celebrated painting”.

Contrary to what you might expect, in other promotional contexts, the online VR experience of the Mona Lisa is actually an extended version of what you can experience at the Louvre, visiting the exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci. This further confirms the intentions expressed by Victoria Chang.

Mona Lisa VR - Beyond the Glass - Leonardo 3D Experience
Mona Lisa’s VR experience offers the virtual viewer a wide range of tools to enjoy all the details of the artwork from points of view that would be impossible to reach in the real world due to the considerable protection measures in place. The images of the painting were acquired with very high-resolution 3D scans. (credit: HTC Vive Arts)

Thanks to virtual reality simulations, it is possible to access an ample retrospective analysis on the alleged portrait of Lisa Gherardini. The discoveries made in recent studies, together with the magnification of fundamental details that revealed the technique used by Leonardo brought to light important elements that would not be visible to the naked eye, also because of the distance imposed by the impregnable showcase that protects the painting. The Mona Lisa VR experience also has a remarkable scenic impact, emphasising the first-person virtual access to the most iconic corners of the Parisian museum. Among the other additional features that were announced, the application allows viewers to explore several other works of Leonardo da Vinci, to pay full tribute to his extraordinary creative production.

The VR application of Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass was developed by the Parisian agency Emissive, in collaboration with the curatorial staff and historians of the Louvre, under the patronage of HTC Vive Arts, which has officially included the app in the catalogue of its experiences.

Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass will be available from 24 October 2019 to 24 February 2020.

For further information on the use of 3D technologies in the artistic and cultural heritage of Paris, we suggest reading Notre Dame – The restoration starts from 3D, published on the occasion of the fire that has recently destroyed the French cathedral.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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Francesco La Trofa

Architect and journalist with 20 years’ experience in 3D technologies.
Consultant to public entities and 3D businesses for aspects relating to design and communications.
Head of editorial content at and co-founder of Digital Drawing Days, the only event of its kind in Italy.
Actively involved in research and teaching at Milan Polytechnic.
Edits 3D STORIES for Protocube Reply.