Leonardo's final masterpiece gets its public airing


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The Independent Online

A much-disputed facelift given to Leonard da Vinci's final masterpiece has been unveiled at the Louvre.

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne has been restored to what may be its original 16th century colours.

Although the restoration provoked controversy when it began last year, most French art critics and members of the public appeared delighted with the sparkling result yesterday.

One critic, Vincent Noce of Libération, said that the "meticulous restoration" provided a powerful argument for the cleansing of other Leonardo works in the Louvre, including the Mona Lisa itself.

In an exhibition lasting until 25 June, visitors can compare the painting with the celebrated Leonardo "cartoon" from the National Gallery in London, which has been allowed to leave Britain for the first time since it arrived in the 18th century. Both masterpieces, together for the first time in 500 years, show the infant Jesus on the lap of the Virgin Mary, under the loving gaze of Saint Anne.

Mr Noce said the restored Saint Anne had "rediscovered all its depth, its reds, blues and ochres... By contrast (other Leonardo paintings in the Louvre) including the Mona Lisa are in a state of suffering".

Digital recreations have suggested recently that the sombre Mona Lisa was once as bright and fresh as the restored "Saint Anne".

There are no plans, however, for the artistic equivalent of "botox" for the world's most famous painting.