Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Paris Post Une: The Moan Lisa (and that's not a typo!)

The Louvre.  Regally imposing.  Utterly huge.  Ridiculously busy, because it was the first Sunday of the month when entry is free.  Naively entered by me, because I didn’t anticipate (even though I’d been warned!) the mammoth size or how claustrophobically crowded it was going to be. 

Once inside the glass pyramid, an escalator takes you downstairs to the modern lobby, crisscrossed by other escalators rising and descending as they lead into the different wings.  A cafe, shop, ticket stall for the temporary exhibitions, and cloakroom share space along one side, while groups of people mill about between; some in groups waiting for guided tours, others striding out determinedly for the exhibit they aim to see, and most like Zoe and I, overwhelmed and unsure.  So, after a peek or two at the map and a mistaken journey on the wrong escalator, we headed for the Louvre’s most famous resident – The Mona Lisa. 

Now, I should ’fess up my bias straight away: I not one for portraits; I’m a landscape girl.  William Turner, Frederic Edwin Church, contemporary artist Lawrence Coulson, Edward Hopper, Monet*...  These are the painters who set my senses afire, not the inevitably dark palettes of portraiture.  But hey, as the saying goes, when in Rome...

So, there we are, Zoe and I, expecting to see the Mona Lisa in all her glory.  We knew it was going to be packed; we knew we wouldn’t have long to look at her.  From what I’d heard beforehand, I had it in my mind that she’d be in a kind of alcove, and I figured security guards would be there allowing maybe six to ten people to file past, taking her in for perhaps a minute or two at a time.  Well, I was right about the security guards.  But what Zoe and I didn’t expect was...

The scrum.  The scrum to see – well, photograph would be a more accurate description – the Mona Lisa had more pushing, shoving, knees and elbows than a typical rugby match.  The Mona Lisa is encased in glass with a cordon of about four feet in front of her, behind which the rabble jostle for position, cameras and phones and Ipads held aloft, flashing, clicking and snapping.  But not for a moment of appreciation and introspection in front of arguably the most famous painting of all time...  No, just for a photo of it.

Now, call me a Scrooge, but you can get that on Google Images back at home.  Where was the absorption, abandonment and adoration of the painting?  Where was the pause in front of the picture, allowing your human senses to take it in, your mind and imagination to find the story in the brushstrokes, the glory inside the frame?  Where was the wonderment, joy and experience?

Nope, this scrum was all about the pixels of the painting, not the painting itself.  I found it an artificial, soulless display and couldn’t wait to get away, while Zoe found it less so.  She’s the daughter of an artist and has dabbled herself, so for her (and perhaps many of that pushy mob that I’m being unfair to) it was about capturing the moment to share with her father, someone who knows what it is to paint.  With my artistry residing in my writing skills, I prefer a reciprocal exchange between art and myself; a more personal, introspective and authentic experience.  I admit now that I was unrealistic and naive to think I could have such access to such a world-famous and world-desired picture, and I accept that if you went, you’d probably have a different, better time...

...but, for me, the Mona Lisa will always be the Moan Lisa.

*More to come on Monet – we visited the Musee d’Orsay two days later and LOVED it!

1 comment:

  1. Love your post, you've captured the essence of the place perfectly! Hee hee Moan Lisa, funny how I wrongly put that in my article but it actually is a true reflection! Can't wait to read what you write about the Musee d'Orsay. Zo xx


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