“That’s not the real Mona Lisa…”

The following is a true story. I swear it on my hardback copy of “The Da Vinci Code.”

I’m in Paris about eight years ago with my wife on a business trip. Naturally we’re going to see the sights (or is it sites?). I’m stoked to visit the Louvre for one fundamental reason: the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci. I make my way to the room with a mass of people, try to get close enough to take a decent picture. I find a fairly smallish painting of the mysterious quasi-smiling lady behind what is clearly bullet-proof glass.


I’m standing there absolutely soaking it up! In my mind I’m saying, “I am standing in the Louvre museum in Paris, and that is the actual Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci!” One of the euphoric highlights of my life. For about 15 seconds.

At about this moment an American man strolls up close to me with his kid, looks at the painting behind the plexiglass and says to his kid, dead serious, in a clearly audible voice, “Of course you know that isn’t the real Mona Lisa. The real one is currently on tour somewhere, and they put this fake one behind the glass to keep the tourists happy.”

I turn and look at the man, incredulous. My mind is now processing several threads of thought at approximately the same time: 1) Have I just seen the real Mona Lisa or not? 2) Why on earth did this man have to stroll up to me at this moment and say that to his son? 3) What kind of man would take his son all the way from America to the Louvre museum in Paris and tell him that this Mona Lisa isn’t real? 4) How can this man possibly know anything about the real Mona Lisa in the first place?! 5) Can I possibly inflict some sort of bodily injury upon this man without eliciting a hostile response from the ample security detail surrounding the Mona Lisa? 6) Why do I even consider the possibility that this guy might be telling the truth instead of dismissing it out of hand?!

Over several years of pondering, I have arrived at the following answers: 1) Probably. 2) Fate. 3) A clueless one. 4) He probably can’t. 5) Not inside the building. 6) Gullible personality I guess.

I have therefore concluded that I probably did, in fact, see the actual Mona Lisa behind bullet-proof plexiglass with a crowd of people in the Louvre eight years ago.

About five years later, when I visited Paris with my second daughter Brooke, a high school senior at the time, we stood in the same room before the same fairly smallish painting of the mysterious quasi-smiling lady behind what is clearly bullet-proof glass. I said to Brooke, “Can you believe it?! The actual Mona Lisa!” She smiled, clearly experiencing a euphoric moment. I looked around furtively in the off chance that some clueless American would force an end to our reverie. No such misfortune this time. We were safe in our moment of awe.

So my daughter got to go to Paris, inside the Louvre, and stand before Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Me? I’m still not completely sure…

5 thoughts on ““That’s not the real Mona Lisa…”

  1. The mona lisa only leaves its place once a year when the mechanics go in to work on her air condidioner. I am confident that the louvre would never dream of transporting her anywhere because of the extremely minimal risks of a splinter comming off-and i support this overprotective attitude; the mona lisa is just too precious.

    wish i could be as fortunate as you and actually get to see her. in america, our only da venci is ginevra de benci. she is absolutely perfect and you should realy make sure you see her if you are ever near our national gallery!

    I am certian that if you were in the louvre, then you saw the real mona lisa. also, if she ever was moved for an exhibition it would be such a big deal that the advertisements and media interest would be non-ending. then again, “the queen is never late, everybody else is simply early”: the mona lisa doesn’t go out to the people, the people come to her. what would be the point of an exhibition if ordinary people are willing to pay for a ticket to france just for the purpose of seeing her?

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