Art Exhibit Gives Blind People a Vision of the Mona Lisa

Along with audio guidance, disabled visitors can now enjoy masterworks of art.

Ruben, a blind artist, touching the Mona Lisa at the Prado (Photo: Courtesy Vimeo)

Jul 21, 2015· 1 MIN READ
John Walsh is an editorial intern at TakePart.

The common sign "Please do not touch the art" might be a command for many museum visitors, but Madrid’s famous Museo del Prado is changing that with an exhibit in which visitors are encouraged to get hands-on with famous artworks, such as the Mona Lisa.

The museum teamed up with Spain’s national organization for the blind, known as ONCE, to create Touching the Prado, which gives the blind and visually impaired an opportunity to create a mental image of masterpieces with an advanced relief printing technique called Didú that allows them to touch and visualize the art. The exhibit features six replica paintings by artists including El Greco and Francisco Goya.

“For me, Didú is another way for me to see,” says Ruben, an artist who is blind, in a video from Estudios Durero, a Spanish design agency that contacted him to help create the exhibition. “It is a way of connecting with the world of images. My fingers are my eyes. Everything I perceive with my fingers, all the information they gather, helps me to learn, to compose the images that up to now, I couldn’t grasp.”

Certain aspects of each painting, including textures, were selected for showcasing in the 3-D reproductions. A chemical process involving ultraviolet light and special ink results in a few millimeters of relief being added to the flat canvases. The reproductions retain the colors of the originals for the benefit of visually impaired visitors with the ability to perceive them.

An audio guide advises blind visitors on how to best explore the paintings through touch. It explains that things that are in relief are closer to the viewer and parts that stand out less are farther away. That way, the viewer can get an idea of the perspective in the painting.

“The Prado Museum is in everyone’s reach,” says Ruben.