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.