Excerpt from Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard:
“I think they should hang the Mona Lisa in a different spot in the Louvre every day. If you came upon her in an empty room, next to that painting — I pointed to a pouting Venus on the wall next to us — “or that one” — a dull-eyed courtier — “I think you would turn around as if you met someone you knew. Not a painting of someone, but an actual person. She’s so present.”
I agree with this, it would be much more eventful to search for her every time you go to the museum.
I’ve been to the Louvre once. This was after The DaVinci Code so I was doubly intrigued, but I remember when I finally saw Mona Lisa, my first reaction was, “She’s tiny.” My second reaction was, “Why do the group of 50 tourists from China insist on taking pictures with her one by frickin’ one?” With a quick snap of my camera, catching not only her, but the foreheads of about 4 other people, I moved on to the next thing.
My favorite portrait ever is one by John Singer Sargent: Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel, 1903.
I was living in Boston then, and a friend who was getting a grad degree in art history was visiting. Naturally, she wanted to check out the Museum of Fine Arts, and since I had not been there yet, we decided to add it to our itinerary. I had already acted as a tour guide for a couple days and was exhausted, so on the bus ride there, I nodded off and dozed for a few minutes.
I know zero about art. The whole time, I was trailing behind my friend, oohing and aahing every now and again to feign my interest, bu in reality, I was fighting to keep my eyes open. Until we passed through an arched doorway of one room to the next, I saw at the other end of the long, rectangular room, this painting:
I felt like something hit me. I stood there for a long time, literally with my jaw hanging open, just staring, not believing what I was looking at. I have never seen this painting before, had never even heard of John Singer Sargent, and after a couple minutes when I finally approached the painting and read the plaque, I confirmed that I had never heard of Gretchen Osgood Warren or her daughter.
But I had dreampt about it. On the bus. Before I’ve ever come to this museum. This exact portrait. I felt a shiver up my spine. At that moment, I felt like I knew these people.
“I think you would turn around as if you met someone you knew. Not a painting of someone, but an actual person.”