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El niño azul: Goya and Spanish painting in the Louvre presented as part of DNP Museum Lab project
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), Portrait of Luis María de Cistué y Martínez (1788-1842), known as El niño azul (The Boy in Blue). Musée du Louvre, Paris © Photo DNP/Philippe Fuzeau.

TOKYO.- The Louvre - DNP Museum Lab project is a collaborative venture between the Louvre and Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd (DNP), designed to explore new approaches to art appreciation. The theme chosen for the ninth presentation is portraiture in the work of the great Spanish painter Goya.

Faced with a work of art, each individual sees it from a different perspective: whether collector, researcher, curator, artist or just art lover visiting the Louvre, our personal interests and knowledge influence our response. For this ninth Museum Lab event, multimedia resources were developed to allow visitors to discover Goya’s Portrait of Luis María de Cistué from all these different perspectives, the ultimate goal of the presentation being for each participant to create his or her own relationship with the painting on display.

From June 2013, two of the resources designed for this presentation will be reinstalled at the Spanish painting section at the Louvre in Paris.

The painting on display
Goya, like his illustrious predecessors El Greco and Velázquez, was a master of Spanish painting and a skilled portraitist who excelled at capturing the inner life of his subjects. The Portrait of Luis María de Cistué - also known as El niño azul (The Boy in Blue) because of the midnight blue colour of his outfit - is one of the finest examples of Goya’s child portraits.

Luis María de Cistué, shown here as a child, was born into an aristocratic family with close ties to the Spanish monarchy; he was later to distinguish himself during the Spanish Peninsular War. The painting remained in his family for several generations, but in the 20th century it entered the collection of American industrialist John D. Rockefeller Jr., and was later purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. In 2009, after the death of the legendary fashion designer, Pierre Bergé donated the painting to the Louvre. Having spent many years in private collections, the portrait had rarely been exhibited in public; and since its arrival at the Louvre, this is the first time it has travelled beyond the museum’s walls.

The presentation theme and principal multimedia displays
The ninth presentation hinges on two different kinds of space – the private and the public. Purpose-designed multimedia displays invite visitors to discover the different ways of approaching a work of art, in both the private and the public sphere.

1. The private space
The ‘private space’ is usually the preserve of a limited number of people such as collectors and researchers, who can approach the work in a more direct and intimate way.

At Museum Lab, face to face with the Portrait of Luis María de Cistué, visitors are introduced to the history of the painting and its various owners, and can imagine the more intimate settings in which it was displayed prior to its arrival at the Louvre.

Then, in a space resembling a museum laboratory, they learn to observe the work from the scientific perspective of the researcher.

Principal multimedia displays
The painter’s choices: construct/deconstruct an image

Visitors can use this resource to modify the parameters of lighting, composition, background and outfit/accessories; the resulting simulated images help them understand Goya’s choices and the techniques he used to create this painting.

The painting, a material object
This resource identifies the different layers that make up a painting and the material changes it may undergo when subjected to external factors such as time, humidity and exposure to light. Animations and simple explanations help make the scientific content accessible to all: to stimulate the visitors’ interest, they are invited to manipulate objects representing the material elements of the painting and thus to play an active role in their learning.

2. The public space
For the vast majority of people, access to artworks tends to be within the ‘public space’ of a museum. This part of the Museum Lab presentation recalls the main room in the Louvre’s Spanish painting section, where El niño azul is usually exhibited; its aim is to investigate the significance of this work within the Louvre’s Spanish collection.

Principal multimedia displays
Spanish art in the Louvre, the history of a collection

El niño azul belongs to the Louvre’s collection of Spanish paintings, a collection that has evolved over time and according to external events. To help visitors understand how a museum collection is formed, this resource provides an overview of the collection from the 17th century to the present day, with reference to twelve major periods.

A large-scale wall timeline representing the history of the collection is combined with touch screen sensors, allowing several visitors, using the resource simultaneously, to access more detailed information about each period. To encourage collective participation, other sensors detect the presence of passive visitors in the vicinity of the resource, triggering an animation that invites them to approach and touch the screen.

With this display, Museum Lab demonstrates a means of dispensing information in a public place in an innovative form that combines individual and collective functions.

The Cistué machine : free and random interpretation
A public place such as a museum makes artworks directly accessible to a large number of people whose reactions and emotions can be a creative force in their turn.

Following the example of artists who find their inspiration in works of the past, this resource invites visitors to create new versions of the Cistué portrait by changing the original background, accessories and outfit. The new images are created on the basis of a random computer calculation made when the user stops the selection process, rather like a fruit machine – an entertaining way of understanding the multiple possibilities inherent in a single artwork.

3. The curator : a virtual exhibition guide
Visitors are welcomed at the entrance to each section of the exhibition by a life-size video image of Guillaume Kientz, curator in the Louvre’s Department of Paintings and responsible for the academic supervision of this presentation. The curator is someone visitors rarely have a chance to meet, even at the Louvre itself; here, his image is presented at the same height as the viewers, creating an impression of proximity as he addresses them directly to present the themes of the presentation.

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