Friday, June 17, 2011

The Interest in the Mona Lisa and Bypassing Beauty

Image taken at the Louvre (by me) May 2011, Paris France - Mona Lisa,  1503-06, Leonardo Da Vinci, On wood, Louvre Museum, Paris, France
‎"One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." ~ Leonardo da Vinci was the quote which caught my eye for today and the reason why was that recently I was at the Louvre with a dear friend Whitney noticing I could quite easily move thru the Renaissance and Baroque rooms even though the Louvre was crowded.  I began to wonder why this was so. This of course was a passing thought as I came upon some of Leonardo's works such as 'Virgin of the Rocks', 'Saint John the Baptist', and the 'Virgin and child with Saint Anne', but why was I one of the few stopping.... Oh because everyone was making a 'bee line' to see "(Gioconda or) Mona Lisa'.  
The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne, c. 1508, Leonardo Da Vinci, Louvre Museum, Paris, France 

Saint John the Baptist, 1513-16, Oil on Panel, Leonardo da Vinci, Louvre Museum, Paris France 
So could it be true that they cared so little about his work or was it more true that his work was more advertised in the Mona Lisa? I think the latter is true and do not get me wrong, I was somewhat grateful as I was able to spend time inspecting the 'Virgin of the Rocks' and 'Saint John the Baptist' in particular up close and in detail when the Mona Lisa felt more like trying to see a rock star on stage.  I will not lie, I hoped to see the painting closer to inspect every detail but I did not pass on the details of all the other paintings I could inspect with very little interruption in my two favorite Art History Periods.

For me, viewing art in the beautiful pictures of my art history books is akin to a fairy tale - quite often the lighting is perfect, the angle is perfect, the composition is perfect, all is perfect....the majority of the time. In person, more often than not, photography does not translate real life quite so well.  I was not a Caravaggio, Leonardo, or Dali fan in print, I am in person.  I was enamored with Botticelli's coloration in photography yet missed the intricacy of his works until I could sit at the National Gallery in DC and muse at each detail. 

While my photographs in my textbooks brought me to the museums and caused me to cross the ocean 6,000 miles to see the David (as a friend recited to me) it is the works themselves which hold the true beauty.  Michelangelo's photography did not do his work justice.

So for today, I leave with a favorite quote by a sculptor which is about art and about life in general, which I try so hard to live by:

"...I have been to the same part of the seashore - but each year a new shape of pebble has caught my eye, which the year before, though it was there in hundreds, I never saw." ~Henry Moore, Sculptor

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