Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mona Lisa(s)

"La Giocanda" has been in the news again. Better known as the "Mona Lisa," the painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was undamaged on Sunday when a Russian tourist threw a cup of English breakfast tea at the Italian icon in her French home. The Louvre now protects this most-famous-painting-in-the-world from vandalism and camera flashes with 2cm bulletproof glass (although the guards still complain about the stress). Apart from the 6 million visitors who view her annually, "Mona Lisa" has been scrutinized by artists and scientists and the findings reported in the news - most recently, in June of this year, when a similar nude painting surfaced and a film was released documenting the virtual unraveling of the canvas; in 2007, when digital scans revealed that her smile was once larger and more expressive; in 2004, when it was announced that the wood panel on which she was painted has warped...and so on.
She has been copied and caricatured by many famous artists, including Marcel Duchamp in 1919, Salvador Dali in 1954, and Andy Warhol in 1963. But her ever so recognizable image has also been reproduced in many media, and the results reported in the weird news - earlier this month, when it was composed of 3,604 cups of coffee; in April 2009, when her image was used to demonstrate how much grease there is in hamburgers; in March 2009, when her image was recreated using sheep outfitted with LED lights; in 2008, when the world record for the smallest "Mona Lisa" was broken, one of many Etch-a-Sketch versions was uploaded, and the "Mythbuster" team recreated her in 80 milliseconds using a programmed paintball machine; in 2005, when Rolf Harris assembled a patchwork of pieces by 120 different amateur and professional artists; and when American artist Jean Zaun began crafting the image in chocolate, Japanese artist Tadhiko Okawa rendered her from 1,426 pieces of toast, and Mexican artist Enrique Ramos painted her on a bean.
Clearly, the "Funeral of Mona Lisa," created by Chinese artist Mei-Ping and displayed in the Louvre in February 2009, has not sounded a death knell. If you're still eager for more, check out this blog post.

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