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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 20:25 GMT 21:25 UK
Fans hail Mona Lisa's new setting

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC correspondent in Paris

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
Six million people a year come to see the Mona Lisa
The world's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, has re-opened in her new home at the Louvre museum in Paris.

The 500-year-old Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece now has its own state-of-the-art exhibition space.

The room has been renovated at a cost of 4.8m euros (3.2m), so that visitors can be guaranteed a better view of her mysterious smile.

But moving the painting was a little more complicated than most house-moves.

No green tinge

Hardly daring to breathe, curators at the Louvre gently lifted the Mona Lisa from her gilded frame and wrapped her in tissue paper before she was ceremonially wheeled along the endless corridors of the Louvre to her new home.

The tense faces only relaxed once she was safely installed in the grand renovated room and back behind bullet-proof glass.
She's like a living person
Louvre's chief curator of Venetian paintings

Now, the world's most famous Florentine lady could be forgiven a small smile of satisfaction as she surveys her new spacious surroundings, created specially to cope with her crowds of admirers.

Jean Habert, the Louvre's chief curator of Venetian paintings, says Mona Lisa's every move is always carefully scrutinised - making her one of the world's first real celebrities, with the cameras never far away.

"She's like a living person," he says, laughing.

"She was surrounded by photographers the second she re-opened. They were acting like the paparazzi - kneeling in front of her, craning to get the best spot, standing up, sitting down.

The Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa now has its own wall in the Louvre

"It was amazing, exactly as if she were a star - and she is a star who will never die."

Indeed, the 500-year-old Florentine beauty looks positively rejuvenated, with the new ceiling allowing daylight in from above, and subtle spotlights getting rid of the greenish tinge of age.

Visitors seeing her for the first time in her new setting today seem delighted.

"For me it's wonderful to see her like this - she looks so much better than before," enthuses one French art fan.

A young German is equally enthused by the lighting. "I love the spotlights on her breasts, and the light picking out the detail on her face," he tells me.

Film planned

But why should this portrait - probably of a little-known Florentine merchant's wife - attract quite so much attention?

"It's the enigma of her smile," says Delphine, 35, looking at the painting intently. "You don't know what's behind it so you just have to guess and imagine it for yourself."

Mona Lisa has always attracted the crowds - 6 million people a year come to admire her - but these days, there is another mysterious force drawing people to the Louvre, as they try to unravel the secrets of the Da Vinci code.

Dan Brown's work of fiction at first infuriated the Louvre - as some tourists took it for fact.

But it has only added to the mystique of this masterpiece, as Sean - one of the British visitors queuing to get in - admits.

"I will be quite interested to see if what he says in the book tallies with real life - the clues in the painting and all of that," he says.

This summer, the Louvre will finally let in the Hollywood cameras to film the Da Vinci Code movie, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou and, of course, the Mona Lisa herself, even though she is unlikely to give away any of her closely-guarded secrets.

Mona Lisa gains new Louvre home
06 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Ageing Mona Lisa worries Louvre
26 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Britons confuse Monet with Rolf
02 Oct 03 |  Entertainment
Mona Lisa smile secrets revealed
18 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Mona Lisa to move home
06 Feb 01 |  Entertainment

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