A day in the life of the Mona Lisa

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Ab stands near La Joconde, a 1503-1506 oil on wood portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Ab stands near La Joconde, a 1503-1506 oil on wood portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Published Oct 13, 2014


Paris - In the early morning the world is still at peace for Lisa del Giocondo, wife of 16th-century Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, as she looks serenely out at her empty room in the Louvre.

Among the hundreds of tourists who are already outside queuing at the museum's entrance to be among the first to explore the Louvre's labyrinth, many are interested in only one thing; the route to the Mona Lisa, the most esteemed painting in the world.

Around 15 000 arrive every day to see the “picture of pictures,” which measures just 77 by 53 centimetres.

“It's definitely going to be the icing on the cake of our visit to Paris,” enthuses Sylvia, who is visiting from Slovenia, as she pays for her ticket.

The way to the Mona Lisa is well sign-posted, but some do get lost. Visitors can find themselves looking at collections of 15th century gold jewellery and tapestries or portraits by the French painter Jean Fouquet from Tours.

But if you avoid the Sully and the Richelieu Wings and follow the streams of visitors straight to Room 6 in the Denon Wing, you will find yourself in the presence of Mona Lisa, still undeniably beautiful after 508 years.

The pandemonium begins. Asian tourists, every one ready with a smart-phone or tablet, are the first to reach her.

“Today it's not too bad, usually the morning rush is even bigger,” says the security lady. One thing quickly becomes clear - hardly anyone gazes spellbound for minutes on end at Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece.

Smartphones are held high in the air to take a few nice pictures, perhaps a selfie with Mrs Francesco del Giocondo, and then most tourists turn away.

That could turn her well known enigmatic smile to indignance, also because at least a few become more interested in the enormous picture opposite, the Wedding at Cana, by Paolo Veronese.

The Renaissance masterpiece is not hidden behind bullet-proof glass and so can be photographed without an unsightly reflection, unlike the Mona Lisa, which has had a more turbulent time over the past 100 years.

In 1911, the painting, known as La Gioconda in Italian and La Joconde in French, was stolen and believed to be lost forever, until it was found two years later in Italy.

The bullet-proof glass was introduced in 1956, after Mona Lisa was the victim of both an acid attack and had a stone thrown at her in two separate incidents.

She was only lent out to the United States, Japan and Russia under the strictest of security arrangements.

By midday the crowd around the painting - its market value is estimated at around 1 billion dollars - is enormous, making it difficult to get a clear view.

The features that have been so closely examined by hundreds of experts seem blurred from a distance. “We've got a selfie, we're looking at a picture of a picture,” chatter a group of school girls from the German city of Munich who are on a graduation trip.

It's a must for all of them to have taken a photo of the Mona

Lisa. For those who find the crowds and the hype too much, they can return to the Grande Galerie of Italian painters, which includes two pictures by Caravaggio, master of light and shadow.

By the early evening the tide of visitors is ebbing. If it was not for late opening on this particular day it would be time for Mrs del Giocondo to retire for the evening.

But it does give her one reason for satisfaction: those who really want to appreciate her beauty and stay for longer than the average 10 seconds, are now arriving.

In the Louvre gift-shop, surfaces are overflowing with Mona Lisa-related merchandise - books, diaries, bags, magnets, T-shirts, mugs and bookmarks. Would it make her smile?

And how might her expression change if she saw the Marcel Duchamps poster in the Parisian Metro, which shows her with a beard and moustache? - Sapa-dpa

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