October 7, 2019
Each year, the Mona Lisa attracts nearly eight million visitors to the Salle des États, the busiest room in the Louvre. This painting by Leonardo da Vinci, characterized by an unprecedented formal audacity, was brought to France by its creator towards the end of his life, before it passed into the collections of Francis I and his successors. Most experts believe that the painting is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine cloth merchant and politician. Although much has been written about it, the painting retains an aura of mystery that continues to fascinate, generation after generation, the crowds of visitors that come to admire Mona Lisa’s smile. Its popularity is so great that the Salle des États is never empty! To improve the visitor experience and enhance the preservation conditions of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre Museum decided to carry out renovations.
Between February and October 2019, the Salle des États underwent extensive renovation with the support of AXA. All artworks in the room were taken down, with the exception of Veronese’s very large Wedding Feast at Cana painting, to enable the walls to be sanded and repainted. A new secure and air-conditioned showcase has also been installed for the Mona Lisa, which is extremely fragile and only very rarely moved in the museum. For some of the time during the renovations, the painting has been displayed in the Galerie Médicis, a space that is large enough to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors each day. There has also been a rethinking of visitor comfort, with the implementation of an optimized flow management system for the Salle des États, which will reopen in October 2019, unveiling the Mona Lisa’s new showcase, along with a brand new display of Venetian works.
As part of this partnership, AXA is also a patron of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Organized to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death in Amboise, this world-class retrospective brings together a body of unique works based around the paintings and drawings held at the Louvre Museum, including The Mona Lisa. Although being the exhibition’s highlight, this work will not be presented in the temporary exhibition space due to its fragility. The expected 600,000 visitors will therefore finish their tour in the newly refurbished Salle des États. AXA, which has been a partner of the Louvre Museum since 2003, is also renewing its commitment to the preservation and communication of cultural heritage through this double sponsorship undertaking. As Céline Soubranne, Group Head of Corporate Responsibility, commented: “This support is very much in line with the Group’s philanthropic strategy, which contributes to the preservation and global reach of national heritage. These two themes have a close affinity to our profession as a committed insurer and our roots as a French Group with a global reach.”