Major Leonardo da Vinci exhibition begins at the Louvre

The Musée du Louvre has opened a major exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci, commemorating the 500-year anniversary of his death.

More than 160 works of the Renaissance artist will be on display at the exhibition, which will run to February 24, 2020. The museum aims to illustrate how Leonardo placed utmost importance on painting, and how his investigation of the world, which he referred to as “the science of painting”, was the instrument of an art through which he sought to bring life to his paintings.


Visitors will be able to view the five paintings and 22 drawings held by the Louvre, as well as nearly 120 works (paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculptures, objets d’art) that have come from many important museums across the world, including the National Gallery in London, the Vatican Pinacoteca, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

One of the major pieces in the exhibition – the Vitruvian Man – only arrived in France last week, after attempts were made in Italy to prevent the pen-and-ink drawing from being temporarily moved out of the country. It will only remain at the Louvre for eight weeks.



The exhibition is the culmination of more than ten years of work, notably including new scientific examinations of the Louvre’s paintings, and the conservation treatment of three of them (the Saint Anne, La Belle Ferronnière, and the Saint John the Baptist), allowing for better understanding of Da Vinci’s artistic practice and pictorial technique.

The exhibition also aims to shed light on Leonardo’s biography through the exhaustive reexamination of historical documentation, breaking with the canonical approach to the life of the Florentine master—based on six chronological periods punctuated by his geographical movements—and turning to a selection of keys that provide access to his universe. Thus emerges the portrait of an exceptionally free-spirited man and artist.

The extraordinary renown of this endlessly curious artist, who quickly came to be seen as the embodiment of universal genius and knowledge, the nearly surrealist aura of the Mona Lisa, and the considerable literature that has amassed from his lifetime to today, provide an ambiguous and fragmented vision of Leonardo’s relationship to painting.

The exhibition concludes with a virtual reality experience developed in partnership with HTC Vive, allowing visitors to get closer than ever to the Mona Lisa. At the outset of the seven-minute immersive experience, the participant finds themselves within the Louvre’s Salle des États, the permanent home of the Mona Lisa in the museum, via VIVE’s latest VR headset, the VIVE Cosmos.


Initially, the participant is placed behind a crowd of onlookers in front of the painting in the museum’s gallery. As the crowd parts, the viewer is brought to encounter the painting up-close, with the protective glass and frame removed. Now alone with the masterpiece, the participant can see the vivid details of this celebrated oil painting, including the texture of the wood panel seen through the paint layer, and, what is an unique chance to do so, the backside of the panel, where the split in the wood and how it was fixed can be observed in Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, viewers are offered a new perspective on da Vinci’s famous painting and a chance to have a heightened personal encounter with the artwork in virtual space.

Beyond the Glass – XP captures © Courtesy Emissive and HTC Vive Arts

Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Director of the Interpretation and Cultural Programming Department at the Louvre, explains that “offering new methods for members of the public to observe and admire the artworks in our collection is at the heart of the Louvre’s mission. Our partnership with HTC Vive Arts is a wonderful opportunity to offer a virtual reality experience for the first time to our audiences. Closely developing the VR experience of the Mona Lisa has allowed us to combine the expertise at the Louvre with digital creativity for the benefit of all of our visitors.”

To learn more, please visit the Louvre website

Léonard de Vinci, Étude de figure pour l’ange de la Vierge aux rochers, Turin,
Biblioteca Reale, inv. 15572 © Licensed by the Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali – Musei Reali – Biblioteca Reale di Torino

Top Image: Léonard de Vinci, Portrait d’une dame de la cour de Milan, dit à tort La Belle Ferronnière © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado