National Gallery minders will be on guard to stop visitors wearing virtual reality goggles from bumping into each other at a new Veronese exhibition.
A 16th-century altarpiece created by the Old Master will be digitally displayed in a virtual version of its original home, the chapel of San Benedetto al Po near Mantua, which art lovers in London will be able to step inside and view using special headsets.
But while viewing the chapel and Veronese’s art through these virtual reality goggles, visitors will be unable to see anything else, and National Gallery staff will be posted to ensure its blinkered guests don’t collide.
Visitors may also struggle to hear their fellow guests, as Gregorian chants will be played through the headsets, and it is understood only four guests with a minder apiece will be allowed in the exhibition space at one time to avoid accidents.
The National Gallery first devised the Virtual Veronese project as a way to appeal to broader audiences with new technology, and it is hoped the free exhibition could herald a new kind of exhibition for the arts institution.
Lawrence Chiles, head of digital at the Gallery, said: “Virtual Veronese has enabled us to understand how immersive storytelling can add depth of experience, meaning, and emotion to Gallery visitors’ engagement with our paintings.”
The immersive virtual reality show will allow visitors to digitally enter a 3D model of the chapel of San Benedetto al Po and view the altarpiece of Veronese
The real-life altarpiece by Veronese, depicting the The Consecration of Saint Nicholas, was commissioned in 1561 to adorn the altar of the chapel of San Benedetto al Po.
It was plundered and sold on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797, before it was eventually bought in 1811 by the British Institution as collectors aimed to secure the planned National Gallery, where it now hangs.
The new virtual reality exhibition will bring the chapel and its altarpiece together again for the first time in 224 years, and show viewers the architecture and artwork in their original Renaissance context.
Dr Rebecca Gill, a former curator of art and religion at the National Gallery, said: “Through this project we are able to bring architecture into the Gallery and allow our visitors to explore for themselves what it might have been like to stand in front of Veronese’s painting some 500 years ago.”
Virtual Veronese, open to visitors in 20 minute slots, runs from March 7 2022.