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Art goes eyebrow

Years after keeping her secrets shaved, Mona Lisa has been exposed as a cold and lonely, hairy work of art, writes Indrajit Hazra.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2007 00:25 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Lisa Gherardini, known more famously as Mona Lisa, was ‘outed’ this week. A French engineer has uncovered with his new digital camera technology the secret behind Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous subject’s ‘shaved’ eyebrows. This is the lady’s ordeal before and after her tightly guarded secrets were revealed:

Saturday, Sept 20: [In front of the mirror with a pair of eyebrow pluckers] Dum di dum di dum. I don’t know when Francesco is taking me out for dinner, but it’s a distance from here in the Louvre to our favourite restaurant, Il Spaghettori. So there’s no harm getting ready now. Leonardo was so sweet when he painted my portrait. He told me how he was going to paint my bushy eyebrows with a special varnish so that after a few years the brows would appear thinner to the viewer. Ooh, I think Francesco has come.

Sunday, Sept 21: [In tears] That basta! I told the guard never to trust Frenchmen. But the guard had shrugged and said, ‘Madame, we are in Paris...” The nasty man said that he would take a few pictures. So I posed, with my arms crossed and my trademark smile. It turns out that this Pascal Cotte is an engineer and he’s told everyone that I did have eyebrows. Bushy ones! The world now knows.

Monday, Sept 22: I shouldn’t have listened to my agent. She had told me that appearing on Karan Thapar’s programme would be good damage control. Karan started off kindly, not mentioning a word about my eyebrows. He was very pleasant actually, talking about how mysterious my smile is, and how he found it ridiculous when there was some talk about my portrait being a ‘secret’ self-portrait by Leonardo. But suddenly, before I could dig my nose off camera, he started: “Walter Pater, the critic writes of you as being, and I quote here from his 1867 essay on Leonardo, the Mona Lisa, that’s you, ‘is older than the rocks among which she sits’. He goes on to say that you have been, and I quote again, ‘dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave’. I just walked out of the studio!

Tuesday, Sept 23: More salacious lies have come out in the tabloids today. I don’t know what to do. If things don’t get better, I’ll stop smiling.

Wednesday, Sept 24: I’m going crazy answering these television anchors their questions: ‘Did Leonardo change the position of two of your fingers on your left hand?’ ‘Why was there a blanket and why were you wearing a maternity dress in the original picture?’ Someone even had the temerity to ask me, a member of the Gherardini family of Florence, whether I was pregnant with the child of Leonardo! Bah, they don’t even know that he was a fairy!

Thursday, Sept 25: My Francesco has left me for a Raphael bimbette!

Friday, Oct 5: I’m leaving the Louvre. It’s too scary. I think that Pascal man will do more studies and reveal my deepest secret. That I’m a fake over a Jamini Roy original!