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Mug Shots

picture of the Mona Lisa

Have you ever seen the Mona Lisa? I'm not asking if you've seen a picture of the painting — I'm talking about the painting itself. I saw it for the first time the summer of 1972 with my French cousin Annie. Her family lives in the suburbs of Paris, and I was visiting them and other relatives on my first trip to France. (My paternal grandmother was French.) In my mind's eye I pictured what this most famous portrait in the world would be like. Since it attracted millions of visitors each year, I assumed the painting would be "larger than life." I was surprised that it is only 30 inches × 21 inches (77 cm × 53 cm). Below is a picture of the Mona Lisa, known in France as La Joconde and in her native Italy as La Gioconda.

picture of the Mona Lisa in her protective case

It's a good thing this world famous "mug shot" is in that protective case — earlier this month (August 2) a Russian woman pulled a ceramic mug out of her purse and threw it at the Mona Lisa in anger and frustration. The deranged woman was sent to a psychiatric ward afterwards. Because of the protective case, this woman's attack was an unsuccessful, literal "mug shot."

The painting has a long history of attacks. It was stolen in 1911 by an Italian nationalist, a Louvre employee named Vincenzo Peruggia. My French grandmother was a 12 year old girl at the time of the theft — I wonder if she even heard about the theft.... The painting was finally returned in 1913. In 1956 it was doused with acid. Later that same year a man damaged the painting by throwing a rock at it. Sometime in the 16 intervening years between those attacks and my 1972 visit, Mona Lisa was put in that climate-controlled, protective case.

I know it seems a bit irreverent to call this celebrated portrait a mug shot. But that term took on a new meaning last month at the 12th annual Rocks Aroma Festival in Sydney, Australia. The festival featured the huge picture of Mona Lisa made of 3604 coffee cups. 564 pints of milk were used to lighten some of the cups of coffee cups to achieve the required shades for the design. Here are two pictures of the picture.

picture of the Mona Lisa coffee cups

picture of the Mona Lisa coffee cups

Now that is a mug shot!

Many other items have been used to recreate versions of the Mona Lisa. This one was done by 300 employees at a department store in Osaka, Japan. They built their rendition with nothing more than old train tickets — several hundred thousand of them.

picture of the Mona Lisa made with train tickets

A mystery artist used about 800 Rubik's cubes to create the image below. He twisted each cube to get the colors he wanted on the top face before placing them next to each other on a board.

picture of the Mona Lisa made with cubes

Lego has its own Mona Lisa.

picture of a Lego Mona Lisa

That wasn't enough for Eric Harshbarger who used Legos to create "Mona Lego," composed of over 30,000 Lego blocks. It measures six by eight feet and weighs over 45 pounds.

picture of the Mona Lego

Chinese artist Ju Duoqi did a version of Mona Lisa with vegetables. Her veggie Mona Lisa ("Mona Tofu") is made out of rice, sea kelp, and tofu.

picture of the veggie Mona Lisa

In addition to various versions of the Mona Lisa, there are plenty of perversions. Here she is with bubble gum.

picture of the Mona Lisa with bubblegum

Here's Goth Mona Lisa.

picture of goth Mona Lisa

Here she is in a burqa.

picture of the Mona Lisa in a burqa

Here are some animated "gif" images of Mona Lisa.

picture of animated Mona Lisa

picture of animated Mona Lisa

picture of animated Mona Lisa

picture of animated Mona Lisa

picture of animated Mona Lisa

picture of animated Mona Lisa

I'll end this part of the post with a Mona Lisa comic strip.

picture of Mona Lisa comic

Some of my regular readers may have noticed that I didn't do my usual Thursday blog post last week. I had to make a quick trip up to Ohio to help deal with some issues that my mother is having. If you are one who prays, please pray that Mom's thinking will clear up soon. She is having some exceedingly dark thoughts right now, and it's hard to know why this started happening all of a sudden.

What are your thoughts about the Mona Lisa? Do you think it deserves the status it enjoys?


"God calls dead rebels to life." - Joshua Pegram

=^..^= =^..^=

If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.

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8 Comments on “Mug Shots”

  1. #1 Barbara H.
    on Aug 16th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I think the veggie one is the weirdest — and the one with the shortest life span.

    Love the Lego version as well as the Mona Lego and the mug shot.

    I don’t know why this particular portrait has captured the imagination of so many, but it has to be one of the most recognizable images.

    I am sorry about your mom’s situation. Does she have Alzheimer’s?

    .-= Barbara H.’s most recent blog post … Back to the routine…almost =-.

  2. #2 Carrie
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Poor Mona, if she only knew!

    I prayed for your mom.

    .-= Carrie’s most recent blog post … How Much I Owe =-.

  3. #3 Lydia
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 6:34 am

    (This comment was posted for Lydia by Rob.)

    Here’s one from the World of Coke.

    picture of a mod Mona Lisa

  4. #4 Rob
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 6:53 am

    @Barbara – I almost left out the veggie ML, but it was so “unusual” that I thought I should probably include it. It kinda illustrates one of the most bizarre media used to recreate this masterpiece. I share your wondering as to why the ML has achieved such fame. It seems as if there are much more beautiful portraits out there. Maybe it’s just the fame of da Vinci himself?

    As far as Mom’s illness, it’s still a mystery to us. She seems too cognizant of everything going on around her for it to be Alzheimer’s. We hope the testing being done in her hospital will help rule out some things and determine what exactly is going on.

    @Carrie – I wonder if Mona would have a bigger smile if only she knew how her portrait has been morphed. Thank you very much for your prayers.

    @Lydia – I was happy to receive and post your photo of the plugged, mod ML.

  5. #5 Lisa Arnold
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I was privileged to visit Mona Lisa in her present home last summer. I was also surprised at how small the painting was. There in the Louvre, it was crowded near her picture; we had to wait to get to the front to get a picture of her. Wouldn’t you know that when I got to the front of the crowd, my camera batteries died! I had to stop and change them, and by then my tour was moving on. The picture I did get of her was not well-focused. I was disappointed. Next time I will have extra fresh batteries!

  6. #6 Michael
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I’m a history teacher but not a big fan of art. I can see how the works of Michelangelo are so beloved and revered and even some of da Vinci’s other works. The Mona Lisa is a mystery to me. I don’t think she’s that pretty and many of my students agree with me. Yet, I teach the painting year after year because it is so famous and, for whatever reason, “important.”

    And, I had the privilege a few years ago to see the Mona Lisa in person and was also surprised at how small it is. I was also surprised at the crush of people around it. I think it’s the closest I’ve every come to feeling what it’s like to be in a beehive. But, I got a couple of good pictures that I still use in teaching today. I was also surprised at how big the Rosetta Stone is when I visited the British Museum in London.

  7. #7 Rob
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    @Lisa – That’s so sad about your camera batteries. Someone e-mailed me to say that on a past visit to the Louvre, taking pictures was banned.

    @Michael – I’m glad to see we’re likeminded on the size and “importance” of the Mona Lisa. I’m waiting for someone to enlighten us on why the painting is considered so great. I got an e-mail from someone (a former history teacher) saying that da Vinci considered the Mona Lisa important enough that he kept it with himself until his death, which explains how she ended up in France instead of Italy.

  8. #8 Brian Tojdowski
    on Aug 21st, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I recall seeing a video clip of the fastest painting of a Mona Lisa. Let’s just say it involved many paintball guns and a lot of air pressure. 🙂