What is it about the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci that draws approximately six million viewers to the Louvre every year?
I have a print of her here at home, and I asked her. I looked into her eyes and waited for an answer. This is what came to me:
“I am powerful in my stillness, grace and beauty. I am complete. My presence transcends time. I am every woman.”
For centuries scholars have been intrigued with her Renaissance identity. But does the truth of her fascination lie with the quality and power of the painting itself? Many people comment on how her eyes travel with them as they walk past her painting in the Louvre, or even when gazing at a print at home or in a book.
Mona Lisa – Her mystery
Mona Lisa’s beauty lies in her mystery. She is not beautiful by modern standards, but rather plain, unadorned, and certainly not an example of a classic beauty. She is not trying to be demure, or sexy, but in fact is quite the opposite. Her hands are large and a bit pudgy. There is no revealing cleavage, and yet she is just so composed, so sure of herself with her enigmatic smile that seems to say “I know you, I can see into your soul. We are eternal. When you look at me you cannot pretend to be anything other than who you truly are.”
Leonardo da Vinci has used a technique called chiaroscuro – the rendition of light and shade – to portray the particular shape of her features and the quality of her skin. We can feel the dedication of the artist as he works the paint so delicately over her face and hands.
This woman knows she is loved!
And she shines love back.
Leonardo da Vinci has painted her large in front of a distant landscape. There are winding paths behind her on both sides, one is smooth and leading to flowing water and the other path is rough and overgrown. Could the paths be symbols of the paths we can choose to tread in life?
Every moment offers us a choice – to be love or not to be love.
When I am not being love it feels horrible in my body, comparing myself to another, worrying about someone else, criticising. When instead in those moments I choose acceptance or appreciation, my body feels expansive and harmonious.
The painting in the Louvre is small, and yet she has a huge presence amongst all of the paintings in the gallery and wherever she is displayed in print form. I get a feeling of the love and respect that Leonardo felt for women as he painted this portrait. It is a painting for women, to empower them. Equally it is a painting for men, to feel their tenderness, and for both men and women to honour the sacredness and preciousness of women when they are absolute and complete.
Mona Lisa – Her inspiration
Throughout the centuries Mona Lisa has remained a constant. She has been continuously emanating a quality of energy to inspire us now as modern women to be that grace and presence ourselves – our own Renaissance. She puts out a challenge: a choice to be that, or not. Spending time contemplating this portrait has brought me to a place of understanding about the power of the painting and the truth expressed in it for all women.
Every time I look at it I am confirmed as a woman.
I now realise how every movement, every word I speak, builds a quality of me as a woman. I am then able to bring my qualities – delicateness, fragility, tenderness – to others in my daily life. I now have a deeper appreciation of the beauty, grace and power in women claiming their true qualities.
Leonardo da Vinci is confirming the innate knowingness, wisdom, stillness and equality that all women can bring to the world. And that is what six million viewers receive as they walk past Mona Lisa at the Louvre. What a gift to humanity!
by Bernadette Curtin, Byron Bay, Australia
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The Yearning and Impulse to Express our Beauty by Gina Dunlop
What Defines a True Woman – Returning to Be-YOU-ty by Kate Burns
Women Speak 101
Image credit: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado