By Amelia Heathman

Iconic Parisian museum The Louvre is marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci by teaming up with HTC Vive Arts to create a virtual reality experience about his most famous piece of work, the Mona Lisa.

The new experience, named Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, is a chance for people to get up close to the masterpiece and learn more about the stories and rumours surrounding it. 

There will be information detailing specific aspects of the painting that are hidden to the naked eye, such as information about the techniques da Vinci used to create the piece that have been uncovered by scientific research. 

Speaking about Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, Dominique de Font-Réaulx, director of mediation and cultural programming at the Louvre, said the museum was delighted to be able to offer this kind of experience.

“The public will be able to discover an immersive experience of an extraordinary masterpiece. This collaboration will allow visitors to meet and learn more about the Mona Lisa herself, beyond the myths and legends that have accompanied her for more than 500 years,” he added. 

The experience will also offer up information and stories about the sitter, something which has fascinated the art world, and beyond, for hundreds of years. 

The Louvre’s curatorial team worked alongside HTC Vive Arts to create the experience, which will allow audiences around the world to gain new insight into the painting, as part of a wider retrospective exhibition covering da Vinci’s life and work, which will open to the public on October 24. You’ll be able to try the Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass VR experience in person at the Louvre during the exhibition as well as at home via HTC’s digital subscription service, Viveport. 

Offering the experience to viewers at home is one way initiatives like this can make art more accessible. Queues to visit the Louvre, and to see the Mona Lisa in particular, are incredibly long, and entry tickets don’t come cheap. Even when you’re in the same room as the painting, it can be difficult to even see the artwork thanks to the masses of other people and their smartphones. 

Victoria Chang, Director of Vive Arts at HTC, said: “We are honoured to be able to work closely with the Louvre to present their first VR experience on an HTC VIVE headset as part of this monumental exhibition. 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.”

Immersive technology like VR and AR (augmented reality) are facilitating ways for new audiences to engage with arts and culture. Last year, Google’s Arts and Culture platform created an AR experience around Dutch painter Vermeer’s work.

Google set out to create a “virtual bridge” between Vermeer’s artworks in different museums and galleries around the world, allowing people to get up close and personal with his artwork and showcase all the paintings together for the first time. 

“We felt this project really aligned with our mission for making arts and culture accessible because we could bring all these paintings together in real life,” Lucy Schwartz, program manager at Google Arts and Culture, told the Standard.