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Mona Lisa

The crowd around the Mona Lisa

Before seeing La Joconde in person, I had heard that she was tiny, that she really wasn't that impressive, and that it was a nightmare to deal with the crowds.

Having been to the Louvre twice now and having seen her both times, I got to thinking. I had, like many people, read and heard so much about her; where did my experience fit in with that?

The painting certainly isn't big, but it wasn't as small as I expected, either. It's certainly much smaller than, say, Le Sacre de Napoléon, which is enormous. The Mona Lisa is the size of a typical portrait, I would say.

Is she impressive? That's a matter of taste, I suppose, and of expectation. Both times that I have seen her, I've certainly felt a sense of awe. The beautiful workmanship is evident. However, having now seen many incredible paintings by many famous artists, I'm not sure whether what I feel when I see her comes from being a little star-struck, or because she is genuinely a special work of art. What I actually find most interesting about this painting is the background. People always talk about the enigmatic expression of Lisa Gherardini as depicted in this work, but I have never heard anyone speak of what is behind her: simple, beautiful scenery. A dirt path. A river. Rocks. A muted sky. The exact placement of Da Vinci's subject in front of this backdrop is, I suppose, what I find most impressive about the Mona Lisa.

Official image from the Louvre site, by Michel Urtado

Now to the crowds. Yes, there are always a lot of people around her. It depends on the time of year as to how many people exactly that ends up being. The best way to get up close to her (and, actually, this is a tip for seeing anything with a lot of people around) is to look out for gaps in the crowd and move in, little by little. Spot the gap, move in. Rinse and repeat. Do not be impatient. Just have intention as you move forward.

Is she worth seeing? Absolutely. Do it once, at least. More than once if you have the opportunity.

Have you seen the Mona Lisa? What did you think?

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