Thursday 18 Oct, 2007

Mona Lisa speaks

Mona Lisa is at it again.

Every so often, Leonardo’s painting reveals more and more of its mysteries. Yesterday, we learned that Mona Lisa originally had eyebrows and eyelashes.

That’s right. A French engineer, Pascal Cotte, pored over the most famous painting in the world with a high-definition camera he invented. He announced yesterday that he found definitive proof that da Vinci painted eyebrows and eyelashes on the portrait. Cotte’s resulting ultra-high resolution photograph—magnified 24 times—shows a single brushstroke of a single hair above Mona Lisa‘s left brow.

The engineer suggested that the brows and lashes may have faded over time or been erased during a botched cleaning. His exhaustive examination also revealed other discoveries, including the position of her left hand. His work is on display at the Metreon Center in San Francisco.

Mona Lisa single-handedly makes the Louvre a must-see stop on any visit to Paris. With the protective glass and large crowds, you won’t be able to get close enough to see her eyebrow, but she definitely demands a look-see. At one of EF’s Paris Orientations earlier this year, I tagged along with a group of teachers who made a beeline for La Joconde, as it’s called in Paris. It’s amazing to see not only the painting itself but also the way it constantly captivates such a large group of people.

It isn’t the greatest or grandest or biggest painting ever. It might not even be the most awe-inspiring or influential. But there’s no arguing that it’s the most popular. Whether she’s starring in a bestselling novel and Hollywood blockbuster or merely the subject of endless debate, Mona Lisa continues to entice and enthrall us like no other piece of art. Mona Lisa may be 500 years old, but she keeps making news.

We can’t wait to see what she’ll say next. If only she’ll tell us what that smile/smirk is all about …