Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mona Lisa: 15 Seconds of Fame

So it looks like Mona Lisa Part Deux has been living at the Prado in Spain and has been verified as an authentic copy created by one of Leonardo's students. You can read about it here: Mona Look how colorful the painting is, how vibrant the background and the detail of her clothing. I like it! Actually, I think I like it much more than the original.
If you're going to visit the original Mona you need to plan ahead. Order a museum pass online while you're still at home. Peruse some beautiful books about the Louvre to get an idea of what you'd like to see. Locate a map of the museum or purchase the Barnes & Noble book on the Louvre that tells you the exact location of what you'd like to see. Otherwise you could wander for days, see a ton of fabulous paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and the crown jewels, but never find Mona. Or anything else you planned to see. My favorite art instructor Dr. Bill Klaas says that you need to approach the Louvre with the assumption that you will be returning. Good idea. On your way toward Mona you've got to climb the glorious Daru Staircase up to the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Just takes your breath away. The beauty, that is. Not the exertion.
After you wind your way around a bit you enter the Grande Gallerie which is 1/4 of a mile in length. The royal family used to march up and down the hall for their exercise. It has also been the grand aisle for the entrance of royal brides. Sorry, no pipe organ. But I guess if you belong to the royal family no expense or trouble would be spared to provide you with one.
You'll pass some of the most extraordinary paintings in the world.
DaVinci's Madonna of the Rocks.
It rocks.
Or Van Eyck's Rolin Madonna.
You could observe for hours and never pick up on all of the detail or symbolism.
But you must move on to see Mona.
Remember, you're going to come back some day.
But Mona awaits.
Along with four million of her closest admirers.
There's pushing and shoving and tripping.
And cameras. Lots of cameras.
Everyone wants to get close to her. The girl who has her own room at the Louvre.
The girl behind the bullet proof glass.
And the alarm system.
And the guards.
There she is. And you (or I) think, "Wow. What's all the fuss about?"
I don't know what I expected, but I was a bit underwhelmed.
Yes, she's beautiful and a masterwork for sure, but in the context of some of the other paintings I showed about as much enthusiasm for Mona as she shows here for me.
I read just this week that the average length of time spent observing the Mona Lisa is a walloping

Fifteen Seconds.

Sounds like the newly authenticated Mona has already received much more than her 15 seconds of fame. The hub-bub surrounding Mona Lisa is really what is so interesting.
King Francis I summoned Leonardo to his chateau in Amboise.
Don't forget to bring Mona with you.
So he brought her.

Leonardo lived here at Clos Luce which could be reached through an underground tunnel from the chateau. Such a beautiful place. I could paint better if I lived here. This is where Da Vinci died.
 He is entombed in this chapel on the grounds of the chateau.
 King Francis I "inherited" the Mona Lisa and she lived at the Palace at Fountainbleau until Louis XIV took possession of her and moved her to Versailles.
Poor Mona had to stay on the run.
Napoleon came along and carted her off to the Tuileries Palace where she hung in his bedroom.
The French revolutionaries destroyed the Tuileries but not until after Mona moved a short distance across the gardens to the Louvre.
But she was not safe.
In 1911 Mona was kidnapped from the Louvre by an Italian national who thought her rightful place was in Italy. Two days passed before it was discovered she was MIA.
She and her kidnapper were found in Italy.
Mona moved back to France.
Her kidnapper's movements were restricted for a particular length of time.
During the winter of 1940 the paintings of the Louvre were evacuated to various locations in France. Did you know America's national treasures (the first time they were called such) were hidden at the Biltmore Mansion during WWII? The Biltmore's location was remote, accessible by rail car, large and climate controlled. Other works of art were stashed in the J.P Morgan estate in Pennsylvania.
If this interests you at all you may like reading The Rape of Europa, The Monuments Men, or Stealing the Mystic Lamb, all books that recount the Allied Forces' joint effort to protect and preserve the great art treasures and architectural wonders of the world from annihilation in the war.
Mona was sealed up in a carton
 and moved first back to her home at the chateau at Amboise and then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey

followed by a brief stay at Chambourd.
No wonder she looks so tired.
Poor girl never had a chance to settle in.
 In the years that passed, the trials she endured, and the wear and tear that she took, I've read that Mona's eyebrows were worn clean off. And evidently Leonardo had to remove one of her fingers and repaint it because it didn't appear sufficiently relaxed. But none of these things has kept Mona from her 15 seconds of fame. Why, you can even buy Mona Lisa chocolate bars.
And the Mona Lisa version of the velvet Elvis.
It's a Mona Afghan.
It would frighten the children to awaken wrapped up in this.
 In all those palaces.
In all those museums.
In Leonardo's studio.
Makes me wonder what the story is surrounding Mona Lisa Part Deux?
Where has she been?
What did she do during the war?
Which is her favorite chateau?
Which does she prefer, Spain or France?
I'd need more than 15 seconds with her to find out.
Wish I could.

1 comment:

  1. My only chance to see the famous Mona Lisa was in the summer of 1999 - my almost junior year in college. I helped chaperone a high school group to Europe (France, Switzerland, Italy). We fly into Paris to begin our trek and find out just about the whole city is on strike. That is right - the Louvre workers and the Versailles workers were on strike!!!!!! I missed these two very important sites!!!!! So tragic!!!