Monday, March 28, 2011

[Magpie 59 and Sunday Scribblings -- the word is "messenger."]
“Well, we had just had a fine meal at a French restaurant, which had come highly recommended – though they didn’t mention that lunch at that place cost about the same as a new BMW – so we figured, hey, we’re in Paris so let’s go visit the Louvre.”
“And once you were in the Louvre, you and Mom made sure to visit the lady with the enigmatic smile.”

“Exactly."
"And as you stood in the crowd looking at that famous painting, Dad, what message were you receiving?"

"Message? The message I received was, where's the smile? There really isn't a great smile. She's just a pleasant-looking woman sitting there, looking --er -- pleasant. Not much of a message, I admit, but of course I have a daughter who was an art history major so maybe she can serve as messenger.”
“Well, Dad, I can try. Reason I asked about a message is that so many have studied this portrait and have come up with a wide variety of theories as to its meaning. I believe that what's important is to first learn the facts."
"Which are..?"
"Well – you see, all that money spent on my art history classes wasn’t wasted – she’s the lady with the smile because that was her name.”
“I’m not following you.”
“Her name in Italian was sort of like ‘Mrs. Smile.’ You see, Dad, the woman was the wife of a rich guy named Francesco del Giocondo. He commissioned Leonardo – not DiCaprio, the other one – to paint a portrait of his wife because they had just had a son. When referring to her, they used the female form of Mrs Giocondo’s name, Gioconda, which is our English word ‘jocund’ – merry, jovial.”
“So she was Mona Smile.”
“Well, sort of. But Mona wasn’t her name; it was her title. ‘Ma donna’ meant ‘my lady’ and ‘Mona’ was a kind of slangy version of this: it meant, like, ‘ma’am’ or ‘madame.’ If today we were to refer to, say, Lisa Kudrow as 'Mrs. Lisa,' that would be the same deal. Anyway, the Italians call the painting ‘La Gioconda.”
“And that would translate as The Happy One.”
“Right, or something pretty close to it.”
“I wish you had been with us on that trip. You could have explained a lot of things.”
“Well, Dad, I wish I had been there too – especially for that lunch that cost as much as a new BMW.”

34 comments:

DebbyMc said...

Love this. It is so like conversations I've had with my own Art major.

Helen said...

... and, there is the theory this was Da Vinci creating a self portrait. I'll go with you and your very wise daughter.

Lolamouse said...

enlightening! what was for lunch?

Laurie Kolp said...

Yes... an enjoyable read! Come to think of it, she does have that "new-mother-lack-of-sleep-love-dove" look.

Berowne said...

Helen: "I'll go with you and your very wise daughter."
And she is, too. :-)

Kristen Haskell said...

Berowne - I always learn so much from your posts! Wonder Magpie as always.

Berowne said...

Lolamouse: "What was for lunch?"
Coq au Vin a la Mercedes-Benz. :-)

Stafford Ray said...

I don't know about lining up with so many others to see an art work, one could be distracted by the real live beauties around one!
Coq as Vin a la Mercedes-Benz?? Was that take-away?

Marilyn said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this. I felt as though I was with you and your daughter while you discussed the painting. Excellent.

versebender said...

Well...not only a great read, but also a great education. Can't beat that! Vb

R. Burnett Baker said...

Fun read. I always thought she kinda looked slightly irritated by the whole affair!

Rick

Tumblewords: said...

It's wonderful to know a person who answers questions. Yes, indeed. :)

Old Altonian said...

I've never understood this 'greatest painting in the world' nonsense surrounding the Mona Lisa. It is simply a competent portrait with a strange background; the hands are not very well done - clawlike in fact. Give me Akseli Gallen-Kalela any day.

Shari Sunday said...

I wish I had been there. Especially for lunch. Information I never heard before!

Isabel Doyle said...

did you try the restaurant at the Musee d'Orsay? food fit for a picture - and it's cheaper to travel without the offspring, no matter how well educated!

Cad said...

So now we know...

jaerose said...

Bonjour Berowne - etes-vous a Paris? Isn't she tiny the Mona Lisa? I was most perplexed..I preferred the Arcimboldo paintings that you have to pass to get to her..Jae :)

ds said...

Oh, to hit the museums with an Art Major! Thank you--and your daughter--for the enlightenment.

Margaret said...

Another well written lesson in history!

Berowne said...

My thanks to Margaret, ds, jaerose, Cad, Isabel D., Shari S., Old Alt., Tumblewords, Rick, versebender, Marilyn and Kristen H. for some fine comments.

Tess Kincaid said...

Perfect. I was an art major, as well. (Loved how you wrote this in conversation form.)

Berowne said...

Thanks so much for your friendly comment, Tess.

Sue J said...

This was very enlightening. I hope your expensive lunch didn't consist of two mouthfuls delicately stacked in the middle of a hub-cap sized plate.

Cad said...

And now I know Blogger didn't show you the new "me", so here I am again! LOL

Steve Isaak said...

Excellent, chatty tale-telling.

Lucy Westenra said...

Another good one, Berowne.

Berowne said...

Steve I.: "Excellent, chatty tale-telling."
It's always a pleasure to get a nice comment from a professional writer -- thanks.

A. Wondrous. Soul. said...

You learn something new everyday. Now I know! And I agree with Laurie Kolp's comment. I, too, like the conversational style of writing. Felt like I was there. An enjoyable read to start the day.

Thanks for commenting, joining.

Berowne said...

A. WONDROUS. SOUL.:
"An enjoyable read to start the day."
Thanks, Wondrous. Any wondrous soul is a soul-friend of mine. :-)

Lydia said...

Thank you once again for teaching me something in the most delightful manner. An art history textbook written in this style would be amazing!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Berowne: Indeed...tres expensive or as in the Leonardo "priceless"! Great roll in the da Vinci style!

Berowne said...

chiccoreal: "Great roll in the da Vinci style!"
I never thought my style would be compared with da Vinci's -- you've made my day! :-)

Bee's Blog said...

Fascinating history - I had no idea.

oldegg said...

Poor Mona (or whoever). That she managed to crack that tiniest of smiles was quite daring when grinning at the artist then might have been considered quite lewd. Her spouse might have been quite annoyed if she had gone further. As usual you treat us well with your accounts of the artistic world.

 
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