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Oh for art's sake!

If it weren't famous, would you look?

The Mona Lisa by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci has been acclaimed as the most famous painting in the world. Hanging in the Louvre, Paris, the portrait dates back to around 1503. During this period, Renaissance artists wanted to show joy through human beauty and life’s pleasures – more so than the art of the Middle Ages which was far more formal and dare I say it a little boring devoid of emotion or colour.

Having visited the Louvre on Saturday, I was both struck and fascinated by the behaviour of the tourists that visit this particular painting. Thousands of visitors hoard through to the museum and rush anxiously to get a glimpse of the work, take a quick selfie on their mobile phones and then move on to the next attraction. The painting has a crowd barrier around it and to get even close is difficult.

"Little or no time is actually spent by the spectators on appreciating the mystic piece. People no longer study it. It is no longer a painting, but has become a symbol of a painting," says Darian Leader, author of Stealing the Mona Lisa: What art stops us from seeing. Looking at the visitors from the front of the crowd, about half have their faces pressed into a camera and those at the back arch onto tiptoes, hold their arms far above their head and take a picture, paparazzi-style.

This was my second visit to The Louvre. Like so many, I was left disappointed but not of the art, but the lack of artistic interest from everybody around me. I felt disappointed at what was a frenzy of self- obsessed tagging at a ‘named’ destination and at the inability to spot the splendour and beauty all over the room and the museum. Perhaps I shouldn’t though… the Mona Lisa is part of the Paris experience. No matter what your feelings towards the paintings are, this visit will form part of your memory of your trip to France. It’s the clichés, you need to see them. It’s what we do… what strange beings we are… If this weren’t a famous painting, would you look?


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