Is the Mona Lisa more valuable with cake dripping off its face? It was not something Leonardo da Vinci thought of, but that doesn’t make it any less artistic. It was painted in 1503, and now 519 years later we briefly had an addition thanks to a man pretending to be a woman in a wheelchair (which wasn’t pretending it was a truck) who thought it would attract the world’s attention to his cause if he smeared the glass protecting the painting with a creamy cake.
“Think of the earth,” he told those present, but of course the tourists were thinking of anything but. There was a lady in the second row who was thinking she might not have turned off the oven before leaving her home in Canada. And another who remembered the Laurel and Hardy movies from her childhood where they threw cake at each other’s face. It is rumoured that she actually laughed. A child beside her was thinking of the ice cream she had been promised if she behaved herself.
To be honest, sometimes you do think of the earth when you see a painting in a gallery – for that’s what it costs.
But when you see an old woman suddenly transform into a young man and get off a wheelchair to smear an iconic painting with cake, it is unlikely you are about to think of the earth, even if that is the course recommended by the smearer. Half a dozen people looked around to see if the other paintings had burst into laughter, like those around someone who has had cake thrown at their face usually do.
No one laughed in 1911 when the Mona Lisa was stolen and taken to Italy to be displayed there. Maybe the one that the old woman/young man creamed (so to speak) is a clever forgery. Can you tell the difference between a Mona Lisa poster on which you drew a moustache and the one hanging now in the Louvre?
The Mona Lisa is not just the world’s most famous painting, it is also one on whose reproductions everywhere the most number of moustaches have been drawn. There’s something about that smile that convinces modern artists that it is incomplete without a moustache; maybe a thin one, possibly thick and growling, but distinct and unmistakable.
A cake is a poor substitute for a moustache. After all, teenagers who crave for a moustache prefer to darken their upper lip with a pen rather than have a creamy cake thrown at their face.
Still, I am sure you did think of the earth while reading this. And possibly will in future when the Mona Lisa is mentioned. Pavlov would have understood.