03.15.20: Seeing Mona Lisa

A dense crowd of people always surrounds Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

A dense crowd of people always surrounds Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

First reaction: It’s a lot smaller than I expected

‍Tech specs

  • Date/time: July 16, 2018, 1:04 p.m.
  • Location: 48°51'39.786" N 2°20'8.724" E (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 (22mm) 
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/125th second
  • ISO: 1600

‍Much of my early art education came from watching cartoons.

‍For instance, Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture appeared in parody in a number of cartoons. So I knew what it was.

‍And then there’s the Mona Lisa (thanks, Bugs Bunny).

‍I’ve since supplemented that early education with visits to a number of museums in the United States and other countries, where I’ve seen castings of The Thinker (in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.) and, in 2018, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris where it has been on permanent display since 1797.

‍And I admit seeing art in a museum beats the cartoon versions.

‍About 6 million people view the Mona Lisa at the Louvre each year. It seems like all 6 million line up each day because there’s always a crowd of people surrounding the painting. Getting a close view of the Mona Lisa requires time and patience to slowly work through the pack to reach the front railing.

‍I didn’t have the time or the patience to do that during our visit. I did get a closer photo of the painting, using a long lens, but a photo showing a painting is rather boring. I feel this wider photo better captures the viewing experience standing behind a crowd of people, many wearing backpacks and most using their phones to get photos.

‍It’s funny, but my first thought when viewing the Mona Lisa was “wow, I thought it would be larger.” I laughed at the thought because I felt like a basic tourist standing among art aficionados, but then I heard others around me saying something similar in a variety of languages. The painting, not including the frame, is 30 inches by 21 inches, almost like a postage stamp on a wall in a museum filled with wall-sized paintings.

‍But it’s still the Mona Lisa, probably the most famous and most valuable painting in the world.

‍Leonardo da Vinci likely painted Mona Lisa before 1513. While the painting is more than 500 years old, it has never been fully restored. It has had a number of cleanings and revarnishing through the years and, while in the possession of the Louvre, has been displayed with care. In 2005, after the Mona Lisa was removed from display for maintenance and analysis, the painting was moved for display in a specially built climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass. It’s a safe place to hang out as the millions of people file past.

About 6 million people view the Mona Lisa at the Louvre each year. It seems like all 6 million line up each day because there’s always a crowd of people surrounding the painting. 

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