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People Aren’t Happy About Their Increasingly Brief Encounters With the ‘Mona Lisa’

The problem stems from the masterpiece’s temporary relocation to a different wing of the museum

Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece is normally housed in the Louvre's Salle des États gallery (Pueri Jason Scott via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0)
smithsonian.com

Around 80 percent of the Louvre’s visitors flock to the Paris museum with one goal in mind: namely, basking in the presence of the world’s most famous painting. But as Sandrine Bajos and Claire Eckersley report for Le Parisien, securing a spot in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” has become markedly more difficult in recent months, with visitors complaining of long waits, overcrowding and widespread confusion regarding ticketing procedures.

“I have never seen such chaos,” a tour guide tells the paper. “I did not think it was possible to show such amateurism.”

Much of the mayhem stems from the “Mona Lisa”’s temporary relocation to a different wing of the museum. Per the New York Times’ Farah Nayeri, in mid-July, staff moved the Renaissance masterpiece from her longtime home in the Salle des États—which is undergoing renovations in preparation for the October opening of an exhibition tied to the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death—to the nearby Galerie Médicis.

Although Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez tells Agence France-Presse the new space is just “100 paces” away from the Salle des États. Unfortunately, while the Salle des États boasts multiple entryways, there is just one point of entry into the Galerie Médicis, accessible via three escalators and a single doorway.

According to a separate AFP article, the line to see the “Mona Lisa” starts under the Louvre’s famed glass pyramid, hundreds of yards away from the painting, and snakes upward to the Galerie Médicis. Once visitors reach the viewing pen, they have roughly one minute to absorb the masterpiece. Then, they are shooed away in order to make room for the next wave of tourists.

“To see it (for 30 seconds), you have to stand in the line for 1-2 hours,” a TripAdvisor review quoted by the Telegraph’s David Chazan reads. “It’s not a single line, it’s a line for the security, a line to enter the museum, a line to get to each one of the 3 stairways to the 3rd floor, and then a big line to watch the ‘Mona Lisa.’”

Visitors have also complained about the distance between the viewing pen and the portrait. Surprisingly diminutive in size, the canvas measures just 30 by 21 inches, it is difficult to take in the details from 15 feet away.

“The thing about the ‘Mona Lisa’ is, supposedly, her eyes follow you,” Jane Teitelbaum, a retired educator who hails from the United States, tells Nayeri of the Times. “I could hardly see her eyes.”

The Louvre is set to make pre-booked, timed ticketing mandatory for all visitors as of this October or November. Although staff had previously announced advanced ticketing would be required for the blockbuster da Vinci exhibition, scheduled to open October 24, the Times reports that the measure was only supposed to be implemented museum-wide at the beginning of next year.

“We are well aware that people are attracted by the ‘Mona Lisa’ and we are doing our best to make their visit more fluid so they don’t have to queue,” a Louvre spokesperson tells the Guardian’s Kim Willsher. “It’s busy, very busy this time of the year, but if people could reserve their visit it would make things much easier. It’s about not having everyone there at the same time.”

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