Louvre, Paris, restores Salle des Etats and introduces queuing system for Mona Lisa

Securing a brief encounter with Paris's most famous lady has never been an easy affair.

Now, however, visitors will wait less and be able to squeeze a few seconds of "one-to-one" face time with that enigmatic smile. That, at least, is the claim of the Louvre museum.

Leonardo's Mona Lisa returned to its rightful place in the museum's Salle des Etats yesterday after a 10-month spring clean.

In the first such overhaul in 15 years, the world's most visited painting now gazes out through a new glass cover which "enhances transparency thanks to the latest anti-reflective technology, while improving security". The walls behind the frame have also changed colour from eggshell yellow to midnight blue.

Meanwhile, a new queuing system promises shorter waiting times and a more intimate experience with Leonardo's celebrated oil-on-poplar painting, the museum insists.

Despite the hordes of tourists, the wait yesterday was refreshingly short for those wishing to stand directly in front of the mysterious maiden.

But, given the sea of selfies, intimacy was hardly the word that sprang to mind.

"This is my first time. I only had to queue for 10 minutes. I've already been in the Louvre for two hours and will stay another two, so 10 minutes for the Mona Lisa isn't much," said Alek Radomski, 32, from Poland.

He added: "But I'm shocked at people's attitude because most don't look at the picture, they take pictures."


Within 30 seconds or so, a guard waved him on.

The Louvre confessed that previous queue management had created "congestion near the work". "Only the tallest or most persevering managed to get to the painting," it admitted.

The world's most visited museum attracts 10.2 million people a year with about 80 per cent believed to come just to see the Mona Lisa.

The last time the Salle des Etats was renovated was in 2005, when it was closed for four years. "It's had 100 million people pass through the room since then so a little work was needed," said Coralie James, a Louvre official.

The Telegraph, London