True confession: I have lived in Paris multiple times, I go to Paris every year, I have been to the Louvre many many times, but I have never seen the Mona Lisa until today. I mean, I've seen her ad naseum—on mugs, posters, key chains, with facial hair, in a Warhol serigraph—pretty much everywhere except in the actual Louvre museum. But for no particular reason, I gave in to the inevitable this afternoon and paid a visit to every tourist's must-see work of art. Here is what I saw:
I decided to take some "points of view" photos for this month's theme (well, somebody's got to do it.) One of my favorites is the following, in which a man's arms reframe the painting quite nicely:
I also like the smirk on the blurred woman's face in the foreground. The painting seems nearly postage-stamp sized from this perspective, which pleases me because that's how I have heard it described by so many disappointed tourists over the years.
I took a fair number of photos featuring tourists taking photos with their cell phones and various devices. The blatant disregard for the "no flash" rules failed to illicit so much as a sneer from the guards and made me wonder if the museum had replaced the real painting with a gift-shop copy long ago. Trust me, no one would be the wiser.
You would think that photos like the one above would be easy to take, but that's before you realize that you are photographing a sporting event. I am no stranger to museum fatigue, and I often spend less time contemplating art than an educated person should, however, nothing had prepared me for the pace of that room: Hold up camera (or 2 out of 3 times a cell phone), snap a pick, turn around, and get out. Wave after wave of people repeated this procedure. My autofocus could not even keep up. See the blond in the middle? I had my camera on rapid-fire and she was gone before the second shot. (Add some long black hair over her face and you've got a Japanese horror movie.) The efficiency exhibited in that room made me wonder where all of these people came from. They certainly weren't at the CDG airport ten days ago.
From another point of view, the crowded room looks vacant. Although the photo is probably too small here to show it, the security guard's lips form an impossibly straight line that is enigmatic in its own right.
Finally, just as I was leaving, I saw a sophisticated woman looking right at the painting. Not at the screen on her camera. In fact, she had no camera. Her arms were crossed and she just stood there. Looking. Long enough for me to take three photos. And in the Joconde room of the Louvre, three frames is a very long time.