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First Look: Cleaning Mona Lisa

First Look: Cleaning Mona Lisa

May 23, 2012
Created by Leonardo da Vinci, "Mona Lisa" is perhaps the most recognized piece of art in the world. Unfortunately, for all its celebrity, the painting isn’t much to look at in person thanks to 500 years of wear and tear. Welcome to the interesting world of "Cleaning Mona Lisa," a new e-book arriving for iBooks on Tuesday, May 29. Authored by art historian Lee Sandstead and created by Tapity, the e-book looks at the unique process behind art restoration. It grew from Sandstead’s experience of seeing da Vinci’s work at Paris’ famed Musée du Louvre, which he described as an utter disappointment. That visit led to a decade-long search through museums across the world to uncover the true meaning behind "Mona Lisa," and her dirtiest little secret: the girl needs a bath. What Sandstead uncovered was surprising. Da Vinci used a process what many would consider the HDTV of his day. Using a pioneering painting technology, the artist was able to recreate in astounding detail the face and body of the real (and unknown) Mona Lisa, including her rosy tints around her nose, glistening eyes, and flush cheeks. Unfortunately, to preserve his paintings, Da Vinci’s also added a protective coat of varnish. And this layer causes a yellowing that must be replaced every 30 years. We had a chance to look at "Cleaning Mona Lisa" and what we found was an exciting and unique kind of reading experience on the iPad. The e-book includes photographs of some of the world’s most recognized paintings, all in high resolution. In addition, "Cleaning Mona Lisa" includes engaging videos, interviews with many of the world’s most prominent museum conservators, and most impressively, interactive paintings. In total, the reader not only learns what it takes to clean paintings, but also about art history in general. In the case of "Mona Lisa," the priceless masterpiece has been cleaned numerous times in the last few centuries. Each time, her varnish has to be removed and then replaced. Unfortunately, not all restorations have been successful. For example, the eyebrows in "Mona Lisa" are now history thanks to a previous restoration.

Cleaning Mona Lisa


Tapity’s partnership with Sandstead grew from the developer’s desire to learn to use Apple’s iBooks Author application. First released in 2011, the free application helps would-be writers and developers create iBooks using templates and multi-touch widgets. Through this process, Tapity’s owners recognized just how thorough a product iBooks Author is, even as a Version 1.1 release. Using the application, they were “blown away” with how they could design a “ridiculously awesome experience” without prior programming experience.


According to Tapity, the most challenging part was putting together, in a purposeful way, each page so that they would be engaging and fun for the reader. With "Cleaning Mona Lisa," they believe they have  successfully added to the narrative. Their hope, naturally, is that "Cleaning Mona Lisa" will prove successful, and at the same time, show the world what iBook Author is capable of and perhaps inspire others to create the next generation of e-books. Take a look at this video at  

"Clean Mona Lisa" Promotion

For those interested in getting a free copy of "Cleaning Mona Lisa," we're running a Twitter promotion with the folks at Tapity. For a chance to be one of three readers that will receive a free copy of the e-book, send the following tweet: "I want to Clean Mona Lisa @tapityapps @appadvice." While you're at it, starting following @tapityapps and @appadvice too! This contest will run through Monday, May 28 at 11 p.m. PDT. Winners will receive their free copies of "Cleaning Mona Lisa" on its launch date, Tuesday, May 29. In addition, be sure to check out Tapity's first iOS title, the 2011 Apple Design Winner, Grades 2. When released, "Cleaning Mona Lisa" will be available for a limited time for $2.99. Are you interested in learning more about "Mona Lisa" and other works of art?

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