I can’t remember the actual day I became a fan of Mona Lisa. But I am certain that series of events and activities most of which were unrelated gave way to my affection for her. As I grew older, I found myself totally intrigued by her, what she stood for and the attraction and recognition she commands even till this day . I’m thinking that Leonardo da Vinci probably did not think that this was going to be the most celebrated painting of the 20th century when the portrait was commissioned back in 1503. Perhaps if he did, he would have put more thought into making it bigger (but this is just my opinion…as I am not an artist, apologies if this offends anyone).
So having watched Julia Robert’s remarkable performance as ‘Ann Watson’ in ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, a film where she played a free-spirited Art History teacher seeking to influence the next generation of girls at an all-girls conservative liberal arts college in Massachusetts set in the fifties. Ann Watson challenged these girls not to fall for the traditional gender-typed roles of making marriage and motherhood their ultimate purpose in life. Instead, she urged them to purse greater purpose and meaning in life in an era where woman were meant to be very domesticated, bowing to their husband’s whims and caprices.
While I will not bother myself about some critics view on the wrong portrayal of the school, this write-up is solely about how my love for Mona Lisa grew causing me to add it to my bucket list. I dreamt of seeing the portrait of this woman who has become the most popular work of art in the world. I was curious to find out first-hand why it was the most visited, most written, snug, scrutinised and parodied painting in the world. I was equally curious to see that expression or smile of hers which has been described as ‘enigmatic’ such that Hollywood felt it owed it a duty to do a film that will portray these attributes.
So you can imagine how eager I was to visit Musee du Louvre in Paris, home and protector of the world’s most popular art, Mona Lisa. My travel companion and myself made our way to the Louvre in the late hour of the morning. This turned out to be a great mistake because as it turned out, nothing could have prepared us for the long queue we met at the ticket stand when we arrived at the Louvre. After about 45 minutes on the queue, we finally got our tickets and head set. Excited much and with map in our hands, we thought we could go no wrong.
Little did we know that we would still be looking for Mona Lisa one hour after. This was because my companion and myself had gone to the wrong side of the Louvre and it took another 20 minutes before we found our way back to the wing where Mona Lisa is housed. Eventually, we entered the room all of which had massive paintings such as the painting of Jesus Christ and the wedding feast. As this was not what I came for, I could not really be bothered about it. I made my way to the end of the room which seemed to have the largest gathering of people. It turned out that we were all here for the same reason: to get a glimpse of Mona Lisa. I tried pushing harder, wading through the sea of people, and tourists just like me while condoning the different smells of deodorant, after shave, and perfumes, not to mention sweats before I finally I caught a glimpse of her.
The size of this art made me think for a second that this was just a sneak peek of the actual portrait. For some reason, I had imagined that it would be an almost live-sized portrait and I felt that there was an adjoining room were the bigger portrait was sitting to receive her guests. But to my wildest imagination, this medium-sized portrait was all there was to my dear Mona Lisa (77cm by 53 cm). As if this shocker was not enough, there were two guards standing by the portrait and a red cross-bar was used to barricaded almost 10 feet of the portrait which was securely housed within a glass frame.
At this time, my travel companion has had enough and could not be bothered to even push her way to the front to enable her take a picture of the painting. However, as one of Mona Lisa’s biggest fans, I felt like I had almost reached my goal and nothing could, at this point, deter me from getting to the closest point the barricades would allow me. As I stood beholding Mona Lisa, I took the best picture I could in light of the circumstances while trying to hide my disappointment that I could not go any further. After all what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t ignore all these man-made imperfections. So there I stood for about 20 minutes taking pictures of the portrait I felt was a good portrayal of a strong and independent woman who has everyone wrapped around her ‘smile’. I went away that day having this sense of fulfilment and as I bid Paris good-bye the next morning, I ticked ‘Meeting Mona Lisa’ of my bucket list.