Three things I'm tired of seeing in the news: the Kardashians, the Donald and the Mona Lisa. I shouldn't have to account for exhaustion with the first two, but boredom with the painting probably needs justification. Just like those two bedevilers, the portrait makes headlines a lot. And it's not even that good a painting. (More about that in a moment). The latest installment in the Mona saga: visitors to the Louvre to see the portrait - long confined behind bulletproof glass about a dozen feet from crushing crowds - will not only be able to get up close but also do it in private.

Let's party

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death, on Oct. 24, the Louvre will present “Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass,” a visual reality experience by way of a VR headset, complete with a voiceover reporting the latest research about the painter's techniques. In a statement by the museum's director of Mediation and Cultural Programming, Dominique de Font-Reaulx, “The public will be able to discover an immersive experience of an extraordinary masterpiece.” And there, right there, is the mediaspeak that perpetuates the myth that the painting is a masterpiece.

Media madness

That mediaspeak also sits squarely in the way the show is billed: “an intimate look at a painting which has been the subject of fascination and intrigue for generations.” The thing that keeps generations in “fascination” is the constant drumbeat of such tripe. Art historian Donald Sassoon alluded to this in his 2001 BookMona Lisa: the Making of a Global Icon,” when he said that the portrait has a high profile because of all the attention it gets.

Allow me to count just a few of the attention-getters:

In a 1959 lecture to Yale University, Dr. Kenneth D. Keele, a medical doctor, asserted that pregnancy accounts for Mona's smile.

In 1987, Frederico Zeri wrote in his book “Behind the Image” that Mona isn't really smiling. It's a distortion from multiple coats of varnish and grime.

In 2000, Margaret Livingston, a neuroscientist at Harvard, told the New York Times that Mona appears smiling because of the way our brain compute shadows.

Keep off the grass

As for my problem with the portrait, her mountainous form blocks views of the dreamy landscape that stretches to the hills behind her. She sits like the Great Pyramid of Giza, a squat mass of dingy browns that get in the way of the smoky blues and greens made to eat dust in the background. And with her arms folded in front of her like a restriction to the scenery, she gives the impression of a giant Keep Off The Grass sign.

Mona Lisa is not a good painting, then, because of the disconnect between the back and the front of the picture, wholly unconnected one from the other. Not only does this portrait fall short of a masterpiece, but it's also not even a good painting.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more