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Hands touching a painting

“Please Touch”: A Never-Before-Seen Exhibition for the Blind


Madrid’s Museo del Prado has finally found a way to share the beauty of paintings with blind people.

In order to treat blind people to this art discipline that is exclusively for the sighted, first we have to play at being blind. Until now, only sighted people could experience the delights of the wonderful paintings hanging in the world’s most important museums, unlike sculpture, which can be touched, or with music, where sighted people suffer the real deficit.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s National Gallery, for example, have already organized activities for the blind, such as “tactile workshops” where visitors can feel some of the sculptures. And the Louvre, in Paris, has a tactile gallery exhibiting copies of some priceless Greek statues. But how can we share the beauty of paintings with people who cannot see them?

The Del Prado museum in Madrid has found the answer, with 3D printing. Touching the Prado presents reproductions in relief of six of the most representative paintings of the museum’s collection that can be felt with the hands to understand them together and in detail. The artworks are Noli me tangere, by Correggio (note the paradox); Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan, by Velázquez;  Goya’s The Parasol; Mona Lisa, from Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop; The Gentleman with His Hand at His Breastby El Grecoand Still Life with Artichokes, Flowers and Glass Vessels, by Van der Hamen.

When it comes to esthetic experiences, it seems that the Prado has hit the nail on the head. 3D prints have so much to offer the world, and this is a beautiful example. As part of the exhibition there are also opaque spectacles available that impede vision so that the general public can “play at being blind” and enjoy this exciting sensory experience. Because there may be no better way of getting to know something than through touch, and because there are things that it hurts us to know without our senses.

The temporary exhibition runs until June 28, 2015, at the Museo del Prado.

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