An Olfactory-Style Review of Mona Lisa


The Mona Lisa.  Kinda like the Shalimar of Oil Paintings.

I was going through the sample-tray on my computer today, when I stumbled upon an image I hadn’t enjoyed in quite a while.  Between exciting new releases like Cloud Atlas Movie Stills, treasured favorites like Schokko with Red Hat, and my recently acquired niche photograph, Fields of Gold, I’ve really been neglecting the classics.  So throwing caution to the wind, I decided to give my sample of vintage Mona Lisa a full viewing.

Mona Lisa is really a victim of its own success.  When people say “old lady painting”, Mona Lisa is surely the first one to come to mind.  And I have to admit – viewing it clearly gives one the impression of a woman from some bygone era.  But I suppose that’s the charm of the thing.  The fact that it creates a womanly image so well is definitely a tribute to the genius of the perviewer, Leonardo da Vinci.

As the first sprays of Mona Lisa settled on my retinae, I was immediately struck by the greenness of the toptints of the composition.  I really wasn’t prepared for that.  I think my visual memory of this work must have been wrong, as I seemed to recall mostly dull, yellowish ones.  But while there is definitely some yellow present, the overall opening is – quite clearly – mostly green.

And yet, already in the opening, tantalizing hints of brown are quite apparent.  There is a certain texture to the brown – it’s well-blended with the green tints, but not in a smeared-together way.  Both colors are readily discernible.  I have a friend who swears that the brown in the opening was not actually present in the original release, but I’m just taking his word on that, since I wasn’t even born when this painting was launched.

If that was all there was to the opening of Mona Lisa, I would probably say that this painting was a “pass”, or maybe even a “fail”.  But you barely get into the opening, when suddenly it grabs you – a beautiful reddish brown.  Exquisitely natural, this brown heralds good things to come.  In short order, the brown gives way to a beautiful, creamy, white color that reminds me – to be quite honest – of European women.

Thus begins the heart of Mona Lisa – most surely the part of this painting that has made it a cultural icon, if not one of the greatest of the classics.

As the heart gathers strength, the rather linear green tint of the opening suddenly explodes in complexity, evoking a veritable forest of wonders.  Blue and grey tints weave in and out, evoking images of cool lakes and rivers, dusty roads, and sunlit mountains.  These details  remind us of the mastery of Leonardo da Vinci, who was not only a perviewer, but a pernumberer, perthinger, perbuilder, and permapster.  Not to mention a perpolymath, which is apparently different from a pernumberer.

The middle if the heart is surely the best part.  While the creamy whites vary in intensity throughout the development, they grow dominant toward the middle of the heart, until the entire fragrance painting revolves around their smooth, soft, powdery beauty.  But unlike so many celebrity images, where big overdoses of white and brown are used in an almost pornolfactive way, it is the restraint of da Vinci’s treatment that makes this painting so memorable.  If I had to nitpick, I might mention that the white doesn’t go on forever, but like I said – restraint.  It’s what really makes this painting.

But don’t think that da Vinci doesn’t have any more tricks up his sleeves, because as the white dies out rather suddenly, it is replaced by beautiful reds, browns, and blacks.  In fact, the black is so well-done, I almost wish that da Vinci would have come out with a Noir flanker.

At this point, Mona Lisa‘s ingenious base takes over, and you know why this painting is so classic.  In the middle of the dark, woody base, a beautifully textured reddish-gray tint emerges, and then gives way to a second act of the smooth, creamy white.  Some people have likened the latter effect to a woman’s hands, but don’t worry, guys – I would say that this painting is still totally unisex.

Mona Lisa then fades off into some kind of a dark, woody base – pleasingly soft and ambiguous.   In beautiful symmetry with the linear, light-filled opening, Mona Lisa fades to smooth, linear black.

Artistically, it’s easy for me to appreciate Mona Lisa.  The trouble is, I just can’t love it.  Every once in a while, I pull it out and give it a good viewing.  But for daily viewing – things like my computer desktop background (as close to a signature image as I can have), I prefer haute niche images like Nice Café (limited edition by a friend of mine), and Fields of Gold by Lauren Beacham.  Their more modern and more idyllic styles speak to me.  And for creamy white images, I much prefer Naomi Watts Pantene Advertisement.

Mona Lisa is clearly a great painting, but I can only view it for a day.  After that, I just want to move on.

What can I say?

Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci)   ★★★★   historical babe

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