Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Mona Lisa Sprinkler Incident

When the Mona Lisa was borrowed by the USA in 1963, and made its way under heavy protection to Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But there it almost met a catastrophe. According to The Art Newspaper Art Newspaper, on February 7, "a sprinkler malfunctioned, splashing water on the Mona Lisa for several hours."

When curator (and later director) Thomas Hoving arrived at the museum early one morning, "he rushed to the secure storeroom where the painting was locked up at night."

“I dashed to the [storeroom] to study my gorgeous acquisition, only to find that Murray Pease, the head of the conservation studio, and his assistant Kate Lefferts, [and] the officials from the Louvre in charge of the Leonardo portrait were rushing around with towels,” writes Dr Hoving.

“No one ever discovered why, but some time during the night one of the fire sprinklers in the ceiling broke its glass ampoule and the masterpiece of painting had been…rained upon,” he adds.

Guards monitoring the Mona Lisa on a black-and-white monitor outside the storeroom could not see the water on their grainy screen.

“The Mona Lisa, according to the Louvre official, was okay…He told me that the thick glass covering it had acted like an effective…raincoat. The rainstorm was never mentioned to the outside world.” \

Henry Gentle, a London based private picture restorer, said damage to the painting could have been serious if it had not been protected by glass. “The paint could have swelled off [the panel] and become unstable. It really would have depended on the painting itself, whether it was protected by a strong varnish or not, and how long the water was dribbling on the surface.”

Read the full story; How the Mona Lisa almost came to a watery end at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


CerverGirl said...

An ever-important observation of the importance of protecting art. Each time I consider what materials to use--supports, substrates, mediums, varnishes, glass, frames (and the timeliness of this post as I just saw "Fredrix Watercolor Canvas," now available)--it shows me each artist makes the first choices when it comes to conservation. How easy will I, as an artist, make it for my art in the future to withstand the test of time? Is that important to me? If not, why?
It is my endeavor to treat each piece with the consideration of time, practice and the importance of creating quality works that may make their way to a museum if I am fortunate, or show up on a modern-day "Antiques Roadshow" and still be in good condition. : )

Celia said...


Robert Cosgrove said...

Somewhere, some insurance company must have breathed a giant sigh of relief.

Robert Cosgrove said...

Somewhere, some insurance company breathed a great sigh of relief.

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