Had the room only been quieter I might have heard Leonardo chatting with her, yet the throng of visitors from all over the world is something to be celebrated. We’ve come for face to face encounter today with a half-length portrait of a woman, by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which John Lichfield of The Independent acclaimed in 2005 as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”.
The Mona Lisa, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, probably painted between 1503 and 1506. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to feel when, awestruck by the ornate exterior and the interior galleries of the Louvre itself, (architecture, venerable and modern, spectacularly juxtaposed), and overwhelmed by the sheer number of famous works of art along the way, we joined hundreds in the Salle de La Joconde (as the painting is known to the French) this morning.
I know now. For no mere trifle is Leonardo da Vinci hailed the world over, more than 500 years after executing this work.
A small painting, Mona Lisa fills her huge ‘new’ home. While I have appreciated many great paintings, the works of Rembrandt touching something deep in me especially, and have seen many representations of the work through the years, this – the real one – is something different. Quite extraordinarily for a portrait of a person, rather than the person herself, I felt without a shadow of a doubt that La Joconde has tangible presence; she’s breathing. Leonardo must have been entranced by her beautiful hands. We need both to look and to listen.
Back down to earth, we hired a pair of Vélib’ bikes for another whirlwind tour of the great and beloved sights of the city, and for windinmywheels.