These tourist snappers are killing the Mona Lisa
Date: 11 Mar 2009 | | Views: 3483
She may be smiling, but why does the Louvre permit its most famous face to suffer this indecent exposure?
Say cheese ... a typical day's viewing in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum in Paris. Photograph: Lydie France/EPA
The bursts of white light become hypnotic after a while. As you peer at the woman in her green painted world, your concentration is constantly interrupted by these synthetic starbursts. Some flashes are so powerful the reflection dazzles your eyes. The memory you take away is of the Mona Lisa in a storm, her Tuscan landscape eerily illuminated by lightning. No, I'm afraid that's too poetic. The memory you take away is of a crowd of idiots behaving grotesquely.
Visiting the Louvre this Saturday, I found the world's most renowned painting had fallen among enemies. A few years ago the Mona Lisa was beautifully installed in a vitrine that permits excellent views of her, even when you're in a jostling crowd. With even a bit of patience, you can have a pretty good look at the most famous painted face on earth. With a modicum of respectful quiet, this would be a rewarding experience for everyone. The four guards posted around the picture are presumably there to enforce such behaviour – but they do nothing. The Louvre's custodians stand by and let people yell, scream and snap away.
As you enter the Louvre, big, clear signs in several languages inform you of the museum's rules. There is to be no running, no use of mobile phones – and no flash photography. This ban could not be more clearly announced. No one can miss it. Yet in front of the Mona Lisa, one camera flash after another blasts its ugly reflection on the glass protecting the painting.
I just don't understand how the Louvre can allow this destructive camera abuse. Coming to take your own photograph of the world's most reproduced painting is daft enough. But at least people should be prevented from ruining others' pleasure with this incessant electric lightshow. The museum seems to have given up enforcing its own rules. It lets the bullying snappers do their worst.
It's not that hard to make a rule and enforce it. Can't they just occasionally eject a couple of visitors for taking photos with flash – and publicise the fact? If the crowd insisted on handling the painting, would the museum give in to that too? In London's National Gallery no one would even dream of taking out a camera. That's the right mood for a museum.
Perhaps there should be a gendarme on duty. This is a French national treasure; France should exact some respect.