The Louvre’s First VR Experience Lets Visitors Get Close to the ‘Mona Lisa’

The project will be featured in a major da Vinci exhibition dropping in October

mona lisa beyond the glass
Still from Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass Emissive and HTC Vive Arts

This fall, the Louvre is launching a blockbuster da Vinci retrospective in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death. As part of the exhibition, the museum is giving visitors the chance to circumvent the crowds and protective casing that typically surround the “Mona Lisa,” and take a close look at Leonardo’s most famous artwork—with the help of virtual reality.

According to Gareth Harris of the Art Newspaper, the Louvre has collaborated with the company HTC Vive to create a VR experience centered around the painting. Titled “Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass,” the project marks the museum’s first foray into virtual reality experiences and offers a unique opportunity to “cross the protective glass that usually protects [the Mona Lisa],” the Louvre said in a statement.

Drawing on new research into the painting, “Beyond the Glass” will reveal details of the artwork that can’t be seen with the naked eye, delve into the techniques that da Vinci used to create the “Mona Lisa,” and explore the identity of the woman in the artwork—a subject of long-standing debate. The high-tech project seems a fitting way to honor the legacy of Leonardo, a polymathic thinker and inventor who conceptualized technologies—the bicycle, the airplane, the helicopter—centuries before they emerged in full force. He was, as the Louvre notes, “an artist who ... continued to innovate throughout his rich career.”

The real “Mona Lisa”—arguably the gem of the Louvre’s collection— will be on display at the exhibition, as will four other da Vinci masterworks held by the museum: “The Virgin of the Rocks,” “La Belle Ferronnière,” “Saint John the Baptist,” and “Saint Anne.” Additionally, the Louvre is assembling as many known da Vinci as paintings “as possible” for the upcoming show. A large selection of Leonardo’s drawings, along with sculptures and paintings by other artists that will lend context to his work, will also be on view.

“Beyond the Glass” will be available through HTC’s digital subscription service, VIVEPORT, and other online platforms—so even those who can’t make it to Paris will be able to immerse themselves in the beguiling masterwork.

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