Have you ever met someone who you knew was going to be important in your life? I’ve always felt that connection with Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. To me, La Joconde (French), is the epitome of a beautiful mystery, she is the realist and the optimist – and well worth the cost of entrance to the Louvre. Having survived over 500 years Mona, who was first given life in 1503, waits patiently behind bulletproof glass.
The Louvre is overwhelming in it’s own right. The day I visited I walked about 8 miles in the museum alone, and only saw a fraction of the nearly 380,000 treasures housed within. Football-length corridors boasts oil paintings from the masters, old tapestries, and sculptures from ages almost forgotten and beauty preserved for eternity. As I approach the area where Mona is listed on the map, I miss her entrance and have to double back. Off Denon’s No. 7 gallery, she greets the world with her deep inset eyes and a smile that you can both lose and find yourself in. According to French engineer Pascal Cotte, she once adorned a headdress with pearls and Leonardo changed her gaze multiple times. To think that he spent over 10 years, some say as much as 14 years working on her is a beautiful testimony to the essence of art.
It’s definitely a battle to the front, and I triumph because I’m small enough to squeeze through the crowd and under all of the extended arms and selfie sticks. She’s watching me, waiting for me to come eye to eye with her. In a room built just for her, she is the only one looking out almost in the way that we too approach the world. As observers, we search for a meaning to her, we try to define her. But Mona is like the wind, ever changing yet consent. She catches us where we are. She accepts us the way we accept her.
As I gaze on Leonardo’s strokes, I reflect on how much time can move on, calendar years roll by like steady rain and yet some things will remain the same. I think of how many times she changed owners, of how she rose to fame after Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia took her and hide her in Florence and now how the digital world has made her one of the most downloaded images.
Once painted with eyebrows and eyelashes according to Pascal, she now looks almost slightly sickly. For me, seeing her, is like seeing Leonardo himself. I gaze at her as she gazes out, waiting for her master to return.
The greatest loves are those who love without seeing but feeling.