For Us The Mona Lisa Smiled

"Just We Two", pastel by Joan Brault

"To visit Paris is to relive a memory, a previous visit not required."

    There is an instant nostalgia you feel as a couple in Paris. The words from Casablanca, “We will always have Paris,” shed their campy familiarity and become fresh and personal. The feeling builds as you stroll up the Champs Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe. The avenue seems endless; the Arc looms in a blue haze, seeming always in the far distance. You move as if in slow-motion, the focus of some hidden camera, other strollers just figures in a blurred background.

Paris seemed our private park
For us alone its charm beguiled
For us the Champs stretched to the Arc
For us the Mona Lisa smiled.


     At the Louvre, the crowd gathers in a semicircle, roped off to a distance of about 25 feet from DaVinci’s masterpiece. People jostle to get to the front, so as to turn to a friend’s camera and get a photo of themselves with the Mona Lisa in the background. If you stand off a bit and take in this scene, the Mona Lisa seems to look past the crowd, her eye catching yours, her enigmatic smile intended for you personally.

I imagine the young Madonna Lisa del Giocondo posing for her famous portrait, and it occurs to her that in all her life to come, whenever she gazes into a looking glass, she will behold the Mona Lisa – and a strange little smile comes across her face.


     And Satan said to the Lord, "I could make you Hemingway in Paris in the 1920’s."  And the Lord said, "Get away, Satan.  For it is written that you will not tempt the Lord thy God."

     We are seated at a sidewalk café in Saint Germain, my bride with her café noir, I with my schooner of Leffe beer. It is easy enough to fancy that I am the young Hemingway in 1925, at work on The Sun Also Rises. Perhaps, this day, the writing has gone well, the sentences honest and true. We sit happily. It is a good time between us and we do not speak. It is good to sit and listen to the noise of the street. The beer is fresh and good and I finish it with pleasure. A few raindrops patter on the café awning. We get up and walk back to the hotel in the rain.


The autumn glow of Giverny
Shown velvet soft on you and me,
No breeze astir, no gust to sway
The lily pond of Claude Monet.

     We stood at the foot of Monet's lily pond, looking across at the Japanese footbridge. I glanced from the actual scene to the Monet print in my hand. It seemed, as I compared the impression to the reality, that Mother Nature had not quite captured it. I realized then that I had long ago fashioned from Monet’s impression my own imagined reality. And it had little to do with the lily pond at Giverny.

The artist gazes upon a reality and creates his own impression. The viewer gazes upon the impression and creates his own reality.


~~ Robert Brault

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