'Mona Lisa' to Move to Private Room in Louvre

Mona Lisa is finally getting a room of her own.

Earlier this week, the Louvre museum in Paris announced that its biggest attraction would be placed in more congenial surroundings.

The $3.6 million project was unveiled on Tuesday and involves the redesign of the painting's current gallery, the Salle des Etats.

Leonardo da Vinci's 16th-century portrait of a mysteriously smiling woman is so popular among museum visitors, it has become almost impossible to see due to the crowds that surround the painting.

"The present display is ill-suited" said a spokeswoman for the Louvre, "The room is dark and narrow, and the Mona Lisa is badly lit by fluorescent tubes."

The Louvre gets 6 million visitors a year and it is estimated that 16,000 people crowd into the Salle des Etats every day to gape at her.

A Room With a Plan

As a testament to the remarkable celebrity of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre asked several architects to put forward their ideas for a new gallery to be built with a grant from Nippon Television of Japan.

The winning design was created by Peruvian architect Lorenzo Piqueras, whose plan for the remodeling will include a glass roof to allow more natural light. The gallery will be separated into two distinct areas allowing the Mona Lisa to be displayed on its own and in a way that will allow for it to be seen from all angles.

This revamp will not only let the crowds of people who surround the portrait every day get a better view, it will also allow the other paintings in this gallery, overlooked for years due to their famous neighbor, to be seen and appreciated.

The Salle des Etats also houses important paintings from the Venetian Renaissance including Titian's La Mise au Tombeau and Paolo Veronese's Les Noces de Cana .

"When the work is finished, visitors will be able to admire the painting in comfort and security without disturbing those who want to contemplate the other works in the collection" the Louvre spokeswoman said earlier this week.

The Mona Lisa has hung in the Louvre for over two centuries, during which time, it has traveled to the United States and Japan. During World War II, it was hidden from the Nazis in villages all over France.

It has also been stolen. In 1911 the painting was taken from the museum by a patriotic Italian painter who believed that La Gioconda, as she is known to the Italians, belonged in her native land.

After a two-year police inquiry the painting was found under the thief's bed in an apartment in Italy. The Mona Lisa traveled again this week, but only down the hall to a temporary exhibition space until the remodeled Salle des Etats is finished in 2003.