[lit-ideas] You're the Nile, you're the tower of Pisa, you're the smile on the Mona Lisa

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2015 09:38:37 -0400

In a message dated 9/15/2015 8:47:51 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx quotes in "M":

"you were a Gioconda
who needed to be stolen!
And you were stolen"

On the other hand the idea of Jackie O (as she then wasn't) was to show it
to 'viewers' in Washington and at the NY Met.

But back to M's metaphor, and its interpretant.

On August 21st, 1911, someone stole the Gioconda in the world from the
Louvre.

As it happened, someone walked into the Salon Carré, lifted it off the wall
and went out with it.

The painting was stolen Monday morning, but the interesting thing about it
was that it wasn't till Tuesday at noon that they first realized the Mona
Lisa was gone.

And with her smile.

Mona Lisa ain't the Cheshire Cat ("I've often seen cats without a smile,
but a smile without a cat is the strangest thing, perhaps, I'll ever see").

The Section Chief of the Louvre makes a frantic call to the Captain of the
Guards who informs the Curator who telephones the Paris Prefect of Police
who alerts La Sûreté, the National Criminal Investigation Department.

By early afternoon, sixty French inspectors and more than one hundred
gendarmes rush to the Louvre ("You're the Louvre").

They bolt the doors and interrogate the visitors, then clear the galleries
and station guards at the entrances.

And for an entire week they search every closet and corner – room-by-room,
floor-by-floor – all 49 acres of the Louvre.

The news shocks the world.

Of course it had worldwide repercussions.

It was on the front page of every major newspaper.

Who could have done such a thing?

Perhaps one of the countless cleaners and workmen who labor in the Louvre,
or the underpaid security guards.

Even the Louvre administrators themselves are suspected of staging the
theft to boost attendance.

One of the head directors was fired -- and not with fire!

Another was suspended -- and not from a string!

Various maintenance people were fined and questioned and vilified.

The Paris Police blame the Louvre for its inadequate security.

And the Louvre, in turn, ridicules French investigators for failing to turn
up even a shadow of a lead.

To make matters worse, the various branches of French law enforcement
bicker among themselves.

And when one department had an informer, the other side would arrest him to
keep him from being of help. It was like a Samuel Beckett play, only
earlier!

It is the Prefect of the Paris Police, Inspector Louis Lepine, who finally
takes charge.

Based on interviews with museum staff, including everyone who had ever
worked at the museum, and the scant evidence found at the scene, he pieces
together a reconstruction of the theft.

But for all his efforts, Lepine has no hard leads.

Initial reaction in Paris to the Mona Lisa's disappearance is decidedly one
of denial.

Many believe it is only a joke -- and a bad one at that (though it amused
others).

When the Louvre reopens a week after the theft, thousands of Parisians file
through the Salon Carré like mourners at a funeral.

The public came just to see the void where the painting had been hung, just
to see the nails which held her.

Everyone thought that she was lost forever.

She was a national treasure, and from Italy!

There was a huge uproar.

It was a major event.

Then, of course, the French temperament took over, and they began to have
fun with it.

There were jokes.

There were riddles.

There were cartoons.

Somebody wrote to the newspapers and said:

'When are they going to take the Eiffel Tower? That's obviously gotta go.'

They printed sheet music about the theft of the Mona Lisa, which they sang
in cafes (the most popular one was later resung by Nat King Cole).

There was a chorus line in one of the cabarets that came out all dressed as
the Mona Lisa. I think they were topless.

Famous music hall and theatrical stars are photographed as Mona Lisa, and
there is a sudden boom in postcards bearing her image: leaving Paris with
Leonardo da Vinci... thumbing her nose at France... on holiday in Nice.

But Lepine and his team of detectives find little to be amused about, and
doggedly pursue every possible clue.

In the investigation that follows, some unusual suspects are called into
question, yet the thief and the painting are nowhere to be found.

Her vanishing act in 1911 is not the first mystery associated with the
enigmatic lady.

Painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, little else is known about
her.

Even her true identity is uncertain.

The Mona Lisa has all the softness of shape and subtlety of light similar
to other works of Leonardo.

All of the marvelous faces by Leonardo – that of his Saint Anne, or of
Virgin of the Rocks – they have faces of a sort of timelessness, almost unreal,
an ideal beauty that is extraordinary.

But in contrast, the Mona Lisa is a portrait of a specific person, with a
relatively square face.

Whoever Mona Lisa may have been, she has become the object of much
affection and obsession over the centuries, perhaps because of Leonardo's own
legendary reputation, the small number of works actually completed by him and
his propensity for self-promotion.

But mostly, her fame is due to his incomparable artistic mastery.

As the story of Mona Lisa's disappearance unfolds, so does a greater
appreciation of the Da Vinci masterpiece.

Leonardo's brush strokes are among the most subtle and exquisite ever seen.
His experimental techniques set the standard for generations of artists to
come.

Though time has aged and darkened her complexion, Mona Lisa continues to
cast her spell.

Even centuries later, although avant-garde artists like Duchamp and Dali
ridiculed her image, they were paying homage to the Mona Lisa as one of the
most influential paintings in art history.

For two years her whereabouts would remain unknown.

Then, in November of 1913, with all other leads long since exhausted, a
letter arrives at the office of a Florentine antique dealer that would change
everything.

The Mona Lisa was eventually found very near the spot where she had been
conceived four centuries earlier, having been hidden for two years in the
humble apartments of her kidnapper only blocks from the Louvre.

She rests again now in the Louvre museum – under considerably more rigorous
security – where millions visit her each year.

The woman, some say, is not particularly beautiful, and there is not a lot
of color.

There is not that much to see, yet this painting is the most famous in the
world.

The problem is she has become so famous that we don't really see her
anymore.

What would be extraordinary would be to see the Mona Lisa for the very
first time, as if you had never seen her before.

Cheers,

Speranza



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