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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

La Gioconda

I fear that I may become infamous for this. Like many people, something happens that makes me remember another thing, or dwell on an idea. Before long, another blog post has been written. Such is the case with the post you are reading right now, in fact. It is interesting to me that yesterday, two different people that I know on two different social networks posted things that were closely related to one another. On one social network, a post was made of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci of hands, along with a link to some little-known facts about the artist. When I looked at another social network, a friend had posted a spoofed version of da Vinci's Mona Lisa, as well as the original. 

I'd like to take a moment to share a few bits of information with you about Mona Lisa. The painting is known by many names, including La Joconde in French and La Gioconda in Italian, but the most famous and widely recognized name is Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa is simply a shortened version of the Italian for my lady (ma donna) Lisa, referring to Lisa del Giocondo, whose husband Francesco commissioned the painting. The portrait was painted between 1503 and 1506 on poplar wood, and is about thirty by twenty-one inches, or 77 cm by 31 cm. 

Seeing these posts triggered several memories, because the Mona Lisa has become very special to me. All of my life, I had seen photographic reproductions of the Mona Lisa when studying art in school, or when I looked at art books or prints on my own. When I saw the photos, I thought that it was a very nice painting, but couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. People would go on and on about how beautiful she was, and I just didn't understand why. I thought of it as a very marvelous painting, but I didn't get what all of the fuss over the lady was about.

I thought at times that perhaps it was that I just really didn't understand art. I love a wide variety of art, though, and I know that likes and dislikes of art can be very subjective and personal. I appreciated the detail in the painting, and da Vinci's abilities, but I still tended to think of it as a great painting of a woman who was, after all, just a woman. She wasn't breathtakingly beautiful, nor was she hideous. She did have an intriguing expression on her face. That was about the gist of my feelings.

When my sister Liz, my friends Marie and Julie, and I were planning the trip we took to Hungary and Paris, Julie and I began to talk about visiting the Louvre. She asked if I had ever seen the Mona Lisa, which, of course, I hadn't. Her face took on a studied almost-too-casual look as she told me that we'd talk more about it after we had gone to the museum. This was in the back of my mind leading up to our visit to the Louvre, but I didn't press the subject. It had been sort of a Forrest Gump moment with Julie, with her all but saying, "That's all I want to say about that."

Then the day arrived. Since she is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world, Mona Lisa must be protected. She rests behind thick bullet-proof glass. There are barriers that prevent anyone even getting close enough to touch the glass, so one can only view the painting from several feet away among throngs of people. And then I saw her from across the room. All of my previous feelings about her melted away in an instant. The painting was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The lady in the picture almost seemed to be lit from within, as if she were alive and could walk across the room at any moment. She was the lady that you might see from across the room at a social gathering and think, "She looks like the most interesting person here. I wish I knew her." I looked at Julie and she knew. I had seen the lady as she really was, and I loved her. Afterward, I learned that Julie's experience was pretty much the same as my own. She had never really appreciated the lady until she really saw her. Copies in any form will likely never be able to do justice to this amazing work of art, and I'll forever treasure the opportunity I had to see her.

Needless to say, it is difficult to put into words what da Vinci did so wonderfully with his paints and brushes. I am happy that I had two reminders yesterday of how deeply his work touched me. I also humbly apologize if my words failed to convey those feelings to you. Let me leave you, then, with a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.