The Masterpiece

May 25, 2011
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“…but no one knows exactly what was going through Leonardo Da Vinci’s mind when he painted this, or what it is about La Jaconde's smile that gives her such a mysterious air.”
Tucking his hands behind his back, Jay listened patiently to the tour guide's heavily accented spiel. This must be the dozenth time he'd heard the lecture—studying philosophy at the Sor Bonne meant spending a lot of time in Parisian museums—but the infamous puzzle of the Mona Lisa still enraptured him.
“It’s not the smile, you know.”
“Hmm?” He turned toward his addressor. Her mango pea-coat might have been the current fashion in Paris, but with her faint drawl, she clearly wasn’t a local. Tucked gray boots added a couple of inches to her diminutive stature and a slight curve to her otherwise crisp posture. Almond eyes measured him keenly.
“It’s not the smile that makes her unique.”
“It’s not?” he asked faintly, still a bit starstruck by her sudden appearance. Beautiful women abounded in Paris, but few were interested in American men, and fewer still were willing to discuss art with an “uncultured” non-European.
“No.”
“Well… what do you think makes her unique?”
The girl shifted a little, folding her arms over her chest and frowning—almost pouting—as if she wasn’t sure whether he was making fun of her. “I don’t think it’s what makes her unique. It is what makes her unique. And most people don’t even notice it.”
He relaxed a little, even smiled. He’d been up close and personal with the Mona Lisa dozens of times, and with a Philosophy Ph.D in progress, he was no idiot; what enigmatic attribute could possibly have escaped his notice?
“Is it the shape of her upper lip? Because I—”
“It’s her eyebrows.”
“What?” He swung around to study the painting in question, and with dawning horror, he realized she was right. “She doesn’t have any.”
“Exactly.”
“I can’t believe I missed that.”
“Most people do.” She sounded so smug. Turning back to her, he saw that her own eyebrows were arched in a superior, lofty expression.
Suddenly eager for a change of subject, he cast about for something to say. “You don’t sound French.”
Her arms dropped back to her sides and the smug expression faded back into inscrutability. “I’m Italian. I’m here to study, just like you are, I’m sure.”
“Ah.” Once again, he was helplessly intrigued by the mystery of a beautiful foreign woman. “Well, then, can I take you out for a cup of coffee? We can… compare notes.”
Her eyes twinkled. “…That sounds… pleasant.”
“Then it’s settled.”
“Apparently. Do you have a name?”
“Jay Spencer. You?”
“Lisa,” she said. “My name’s Lisa.”





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