The mystery of Mona Lisa

Thomas Ricker/Creative Commons

The most unsettling aspect of the Mona Lisa to me, besides the swarms of mob-like tourists she attracts, is undoubtedly her eyebrows. Or rather, lack thereof. Tucked away beneath layers of bulletproof glass and behind crowds thick with non-flash photography sits a woman 30 inches tall, dwarfed by the high ceilings and the throngs of people surrounding her. While Lisa Gherardini’s tracking eyes and illustriously ambiguous expression may mystify some, my curiosity lies in her lack of facial hair.

My mind wanders as I imagine the endless possibilities resulting in her barren forehead. I imagine poor Lisa, sitting for ages, as Da Vinci labors over her mildly amused expression and then neglects to include her eyebrows. The folds of the fabric and luminescence of her complexion are lost on me as I ponder whether or not she was afflicted with Trichotillomania. The richness of her color, the softness of her hands and texture of her tendrils all seem to fall away as my attention focuses not on the ominous and fantastical landscape in the background, but instead the approximate three square inches occupying the space above her notoriously enigmatic eyes.

People walk in and out, nudging through the crowd to take a picture before vanishing back into the comparatively empty white-walled labyrinth. While they glance at her through external lenses, my eye contact with the Mona Lisa is one of a shared secret hidden in plain sight. The Louvre found that most people spend only an average of fifteen seconds with Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Perhaps if these transient visitors stayed for longer, they, too, could share in my fascination with the browless wonder of the world: The Mona Lisa.

Contact Sara Suhl at at [email protected].