Humanizing Mona Lisa

Nearly 2 years ago my husband and I visited Paris, France. We spent 72 hours soaking in all the city had to offer, before we jetted off to Italy for further exploration. 

On day 2 of our vacay we stood amongst hundreds of others, albeit clouds of cigarette smoke, in a line entering the famous “Louve” Museum. 

After an hour of exploring every ancient bath, portrait, sculpture and Aphrodite: we entered the room which hung, the “Mona Lisa” painting. 

She was stunning. And mighty popular. Crowds hummed and buzzed around her while security guards motioned for people to step back for their selfie.

In her half-baked smile, Mona Lisa looked calm, collected and open to interpretation as she hung flawlessly in front of her European fan club. She didn’t appear to fear judgement and she wasn’t gleaming for approval. She just was. And she was beautiful. And she was worth over 2 billion. Whoa.

Recently, In a book I was reading (“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle) I was reminded of a theory I was told about this woman and this painting. A theory I can now appreciate so much more, 2 years later. A theory that makes me love and appreciate the badass woman this Mona Lisa really is. 

And whether you’re a DiVinchi fan or not, please hear me out: 

So there is this theory, about her smile. 

Story goes: Mona Lisa and her husband had been trying for a baby, finally conceived, and then miscarried. 

Sometime later, Mona Lisa’s husband commissioned Leonardo DiVinchi to paint this portrait as a celebration of conception of their next child. Mona Lisa was pregnant, and this painting was meant to be a celebration of that. 

Story goes though, that she refused to smile. Well, she refused to smile all the way. Despite DiVinchi prompting her to share her happiness with the world on her face: she continued to sit and stare into the abyss: half smiling, half grieving.  

Mona Lisa did not want the happiness she was feeling about her new baby to override the pain of losing her first one. So she sat for the portrait: half in joy, half in grief: or perhaps, fully in joy, while also: fully in grief. Nonetheless, she sat with authentically and poise.

“She has the look of a woman who has just realized a dream, but still carries the loss of a dream inside her”

Glennon Doyle

I give credit to Mona Lisa for standing her ground. What a badass chick. She refused to mask her pain with a gleaming smile, and instead, she wanted the entire story of her life to be written on her face. She wanted to remember her own hurt, she wanted to remember the pain, she wanted to show other women that’s it’s OK to be fully human. Being fully human means you feel it all. She didn’t pretend: she sat with pride. Honest and resolute. 

So, now I know why this chick has her own fan club. I know why piles of individuals flock to her tiny painting in the largest of Museums. Mona Lisa is a representation of a fully-human woman. She sits there saying: 

“Don’t tell me to smile, I won’t be pleasant: even trapped here in 2 dimensions you will see the truth, you will see my life’s brutal and beautiful- right here on my face- and the world, will not be able to stop starring”

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