Moving the Mona Lisa

There's an interesting article at Wired about the crazy cost of moving a major work of art. The article claims that when the Mona Lisa was moved to its more prominent spot in the Louvre last year, it cost 3.2 million British pounds to move it. And it was only moved several meters!

Here's how it worked when they moved another of da Vinci's paintings, Lady With the Ermine, from Poland to San Francisco:

The painting was shipped by air -- accompanied by two armed couriers who sat in first-class seats on either side of the Lady, who had her own first-class seat. The painting had been crated in Poland in a heat-treated wooden box, then placed in a metal container. The box had a homing device to trace it if it were lost. Perish the thought. On arrival in San Francisco, the airport had further armed security attached to an unmarked van. The painting was transported to the museum, where it was unpacked and displayed in a climate-controlled glass casing. A boundary was marked off 3 feet from the painting, beyond which viewers were not to go, Sanchez says.

And in case you're wondering where the Mona Lisa has traveled:

The Mona Lisa has been a world traveler. After getting to the Louvre by a circuitous route, it was once borrowed by Napoleon, who put it on his bedroom wall. His exile to Elba island brought it back to the Louvre. The painting was stolen in 1911 and showed up in Florence, where it originated. Then it went back to the museum, followed by a Nazi sojourn and a GI rescue, and then back to the Louvre again. It went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1963 and traveled afterward to New York, Tokyo and Moscow. Now, however, it is a permanent darling of the Louvre.



The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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