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  • Writer's pictureModhayan

The Mona Lisa Versus the Mona Lisa Story

During a visit to the Louvre, I got a chance to see the Mona Lisa back in 2005, and I remember spending way more time looking at Michaelangelo's Rebellious Slave and the Nike of Samothrace than the time spent looking at the Mona Lisa.

Back in 2005, I use to think of her as the Celine Dion of paintings, I love her but hate to admit my love to her, maybe because she stands at the highest peaks of mainstream - excuse my possessiveness. I already knew back then why was the Mona Lisa famous: the theft, the American trip, the copies, the Russian attack, and of course, Dan Brown. Anything that makes that much of headlines, must be as famous as the Beatles.

While visiting her, I simply chose to look at her visitors rather than looking at Mona Lisa. I think I would do that again if I visit the Louvre today. Observe the mobile-social Mona Lisa visitors of today and wonder.

Who are they?

Why do they visit her?

How do they look at her?

What do they do when visiting her?

But seriously, we have an interesting way to comprehend and interpret art based on this specific experience of taking a closer look at the Mona Lisa.

To make a point, I'll leave the Mona Lisa aside and will talk about Animation Production cels (celluloid). I collect those cels from all around the world but specialize in classic Japanese anime cels. Most of the cels I have go back to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, some are American and most are Japanese. I organized several exhibitions across my region, and have always noticed how visitors of my exhibitions become most interested in those cels when stories about those cels are told instead of technical facts. I get a simple polite smile when I tell someone who, how and when was the cel produced, but I get a full group of wide-open eyes and attentive ears when telling a story: How I got this cel? How the previous collector got it? What did the collectors do in order to preserve the colors and outlines? What happened to other cels that cease to exist today? Why is it hard to obtain cels from Disney or from other Japanese production houses and works? How can we tell whether a cel is original or not? etc... In short, we love stories. If a person doesn't have an eye that appreciates a piece of art, there's a higher chance this person has an ear that appreciates a good story that revolves around that piece of art.

Disclosure: This piece was written in an Art History class while studying at Berklee Online.

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