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New digs for 'Mona Lisa' at Louvre

PARIS (AP) _ The ``Mona Lisa'' stared out at her new, roomier surroundings at the Louvre Museum on Tuesday _ and smiled.

The refurbished room at the Louvre will provide a better view of the 500-year-old masterpiece to the millions who come to visit every year.

Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of the mysterious lady with the enigmatic smile was moved Monday to the Salle des Etats room, where lighting and climate control were improved in the $6.1 million four-year makeover designed by Peruvian architect Lorenzo Piqueras.

``It's completely new, completely different,'' said Louvre spokeswoman Veronique Petitjean.

The setting provides more space for the painting than did the much smaller Salle Rosa down the hall, where it was before the move.

There, crowds in the cramped room struggled to view the painting, which is only 21 by 30 inches in size.

In its new setting, the painting is at one end of the hall dedicated to 16th-century Italian paintings. It is still protected by unbreakable, non-reflective glass and set against a marbled beige wall.

A heavy wooden semicircular railing keeps visitors back.

The museum says 6 million people visit the museum each year to view the ``Mona Lisa.'' The painting was taken off public display Monday but will be reopened Wednesday to the public in the Salle des Etats.

About 50 other 16th century Italian paintings, including the Louvre's largest painting _ ``The Wedding Feast at Cana'' _ are also in the collection on display.

The famous portrait, believed to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of an obscure Florentine merchant, was painted between 1503 and 1506 on a thin panel of wood.

The artist brought the painting to France in 1517. It has been in the Louvre since 1804.

Curators announced last year that the painting was beginning to show signs of warping, and would undergo scientific analysis. It is typically removed from its case once a year, so conservation experts can monitor its condition.
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