Today Richard and I went to the Louvre. We saw rooms of Greek and Egyptian sculpture, works by the Dutch masters, more religious paintings than you could count, and the full panoply of Renaissance art. One highlight — or, more accurately, lowlight — was the visit to the Mona Lisa.
It is easy to tell when you reach the room with Mona Lisa, for two reasons. First, it is exponentially more jammed with people than the rest of the Louvre. Second, the otherwise rational, respectful visitors and art lovers you find elsewhere in the museum have been magically transformed into the most appalling jerks imaginable.
The Louvre has the Mona Lisa displayed on a central column in the middle of the room, with ropes to keep people back. There is an immense crush of people in front of the painting. Seemingly everyone has a camera and is snapping a picture of — a picture? — and is pressing forward and trying to wedge themselves in front of the person standing next to them. As Richard and I stood at the rear of the crowd and tried to appreciate the world’s most famous painting, I was hit on the back of the head by the camera of the person behind me and Richard was swept away in the mad press forward. I’m amazed that fights didn’t break out as people jockeyed for position to take the best picture of the painting.
No one can possibly appreciate the quality of the Mona Lisa under these circumstances. You can’t get close to it, and if you even get to the front of the crowd you don’t exactly have the opportunity for quiet contemplation as the cameras click and you’re trying to stand your ground against the onslaught. We gave up and decided to move on.
The Mona Lisa undoubtedly is a great painting, but this was ridiculous.