"Mona Lisa" back at work, visitors limited as Louvre reopens

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Visitors take photos of the Leonardo da Vinci's painting Mona Lisa, in Paris, Monday, July 6, 2020. The home of the world's most famous portrait, the Louvre Museum in Paris, reopened Monday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown. (AP Photo/ Thibault Camus)

PARIS – The “Mona Lisa” is back in business.

Paris' Louvre Museum, which houses the world's most famous portrait, reopened Monday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown and without its usual huge throngs.

The reopening of the world's most-visited museum was a bright spot in what is otherwise shaping up as a grimly quiet start to the summer tourist season in France, with far fewer visitors than was normal before the pandemic closed borders.

Paris tour guide Katia Besnard Rousseau said she has had no groups to show around since France gradually started coming out of its strict two-month lockdown in May. On Monday, as the Louvre reopened, she and dozens of other guides demonstrated outside, forming a long line and holding up images of the “Mona Lisa” to highlight the hardship afflicting their industry.

“My whole season collapsed. There is no one around. It's very dramatic," said Besnard Rousseau. “To live in Paris and not be able to guide is horribly frustrating. I really miss it.”

Inside the museum, face masks were a must and visitor numbers were limited, with reservations required. Among the trickle of returning tourists was Zino Vandenbeaghen, who traveled from Belgium to enjoy the unusual space at both the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

“It's super," he said. “The ideal moment to visit.”

About 70% of the giant museum — 45,000 square meters (484,000 square feet) of space, or the equivalent of 230 tennis courts — housing 30,000 of the Louvre’s vast trove of works is again accessible to visitors starved of art in lockdown.