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Thursday, 06 June 2013 22:12

Mona Lisa Gets New Lighting at the Louvre

Officials at the Louvre in Paris unveiled a new lighting system for Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) Mona Lisa. The masterpiece, which is the most visited artwork in the museum, now boasts LED bulbs in a new system by Toshiba. The company has a multi-year agreement with the Louvre and will gradually update all of the museum’s lighting.

Mona Lisa’s new lighting system can be adjusted to highlight the painting’s natural colors. It also minimizes ultraviolet and infrared rays, which can make the work appear faded. Curators at the Louvre worked alongside Toshiba to reach the ideal lighting.

Toshiba has completed updating the lighting in the Louvre’s I.M. Pei-designed outdoor pyramid and a portion of the ceiling lighting has been redone. The company is currently working on the lighting in the museum’s Napoleon Hall.

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Energy efficient LED lighting, which is widely used in museums across the world, has altered the color of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) famous Sunflowers (1888). Once a vivid yellow hue, van Gogh’s masterpieces are darkening; scientists have discovered that certain yellow pigments from the 19th century become unstable after exposure to LED lights, turning them a brownish green over time.

Researchers in France and Germany sampled 14 works dating from 1887 to 1890 and tested for the reaction, which affects the oil paint color chrome yellow. A popular pigment at the time, artists such as Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) often used chrome yellow in their paintings. Upon their discovery, researchers suggested that museums avoid using LED lighting on certain works and switch to a safer illumination alternative.

Van Gogh painted his sunflower series as a welcoming present for his friend, Gauguin, and planned to hang the works in the room where he was to stay while in Arles. A copy by van Gogh from the original series is on view at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

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