Entry 34 October 24, 2015
I noticed a few weeks ago on the Louvre website banner that “A Closer Look” was being relaunched with a new multimedia treatment of the Mona Lisa. I clicked the tab on the banner and found, as the website promised, a remarkably rich selection of brief commentaries keyed to the work’s features: the Mona Lisa smile, of course, but also her eyes, her hands, the pillars of the porch on which she’s seated, the landscape behind her, and so on. There are appreciations of the painting from renowned art critics, a thrilling account of the time the Mona Lisa was stolen, and a close comparison between the Louvre Mona Lisa and a copy of it, housed in the Prado, which was painted in Leonardo’s studio by one of his students. In almost every way, this new multimedia treatment is an improvement on the original “A Closer Look” presentation, and it’s a promising start to the new series, called “Focus”, which is replacing “A Closer Look”.
I say almost every way because one of my favorite elements of the old feature on the Mona Lisa isn’t duplicated in the new “Focus” feature. The old “A Closer Look” at the Mona Lisa began with a long video shot of the camera moving toward the painting through its current gallery. The new “Focus” treatment starts with a brief video view, too, but, unlike the old feature, which showed the painting in an empty gallery, the new view shows the painting at a distance, from behind a crowd of jostling, photo-snapping, murmuring gallery occupants.
As much as I appreciate the decision to include this crowd element of seeing the Mona Lisa—in fact, the experience of sharing the painting with other viewers is what I especially wrote about in blog entry 12, I miss the image of the painting by itself. I tried going to “A Closer Look”—there’s still a link with that name under the “Learning About Art” section of the website’s home page, but the old Mona Lisa feature isn’t listed there anymore. Instead, you’re taken to the new “Focus” feature. Other old “A Closer Look” features are there, but not the Mona Lisa.
I’m happy to say that for now, at least, the old “A Closer Look” feature on the Mona Lisa is accessible, even though I can’t find a link to it on the Louvre website. A Google search for “A Closer Look” and “The Mona Lisa” will take you to the old feature on the painting, the one I especially liked when I first found it a couple of years ago. Here’s a link to it: http://musee.louvre.fr/oal/joconde/indexEN.html.
One of the things that this makes me think is that visiting a website isn’t like viewing a perfected work, with every element just so. Rather, it’s like approaching a medieval cathedral, an object constantly undergoing renovation, with those renovations, and the tools involved in carrying them out, on full display.
And now for something completely different: in my review of Louvre painters, I’ve just reached the first female artist whose work is listed under her own name rather than under the name of a male artist with whom she’s associated. It’s Judith Leyster (1609-1660), wife of Jan Miense Molenaer (1609-1668) and contemporary of Frans Hals (1581-1660). The Merry Company (1630), the painting attributed to her in my Louvre book, gets almost a full page. According to the commentary that accompanies it, the painting was brought into the Louvre collection as the work of Frans Hals and attributed to him until 1893; the Grove Art Online states that a painting attributed to Leyster, The Jester (Amsterdam, Rijksmus.), is a copy of a Hals painting now in the Louvre collection, called The Lute Player (1623). I mention this painting because of the Louvre connection, but I’m not sure it’s the same painting that my book calls Clown with a Lute (1623). The only other female artist I’ve written about in the blog (entry 22) was Agnese Dolci (1635-1686), daughter of Carlo Dolci (1616-1686), and the conflicting reports as to whether or not the Louvre contains a painting by her.
I hope Mona Lisa won’t mind that I’ve brought another female, this one an artist, into this account of the new multimedia treatment of her. Perhaps someday Leyster, who for a time had no paintings attributed to her but who is now the subject of an extensive bibliography, will merit such attention.