Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503-6) is housed in the Louvre behind plastic glass, some distance away from where its audience must stand. The viewing conditions are atrocious, and usually compounded by the gaggle of spectators crowding round to look at one of the most famous paintings in the world. Most of them have seen endless reproductions, but somehow the draw of the original is intensified rather than lessened. Why is this? Why do we assume that the original work is so precious? That we do seems clear, from the huge sums paid on the art market for original works to the lengths some people will go to to see particular exhibitions. If we could see a copy that was just as good would we really be missing out on anything? Why do we presume that forgeries and pastiches can't be as artistically worthwhile?
It is a commonly held view that an art work has no worth other than the value of the experiences it affords us. Does experiencing