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Smiling Back at the Mona Lisa

Updated on July 11, 2015

...and Other Really Great Faces

Everyone loves a great face. How can one not?


But what's the magic behind a really great face? What makes us smile?

Makes us feel good--

Makes us want to look for just a little while longer.


What is it about a certain face that can make a person want to look twice...

...or hope to see again?


Great faces have filled this planet since the beginning of time and will continue to do so.

There’s just something about a certain face that can make us choose our lovers, our spouses...

... tenderly touch a cheek.

Make us buy a movie ticket just to see it on a large screen...

Make us forget what we’re saying in mid-sentence-- stop in mid-chew...

... Remember meeting a stranger for years to come.

... or simply smile out of sheer admiration—even from across a crowded room.


What is it about that face which can makes us swoon... sway.. reach for a paint brush, stand behind a camera, buy a plane ticket and fly across an ocean just to stand in a shoulder to shoulder crowd to get a peek?



The Mona Lisa is probably the most famous of faces, and a fascinating work of art in general. There’s its history—its mystery.

But what is most fascinating-- is because of its legend, because its prestigious home is the Louvre , one tends to imagine this painting bold in color and grand in size. When in fact it’s actually quite small and lacks certain vibrancy, and then there’s the mysterious model herself—plain or pretty? Yet, this plain or pretty portrait on this unassuming little canvas has mesmerized millions for centuries.

Even art critics have said, “It’s complicated in its simplicity.” That’s what they say when they can’t pinpoint the exact appeal either by the way.

It is impossible to fathom not only the amount of eyes, but whose eyes have looked upon Mona Lisa's face—eyes of kings, queens, criminals and all those above, below and in between. It is rumored even Da Vinci himself had an obsession with her, and a work he kept close to him until his death.

If one ever has the privilege of standing before her, one may feel a bit cheated at first look, especially if one has gone through a great deal of trouble and expense.


Walking through the splendor of the Louvre in general builds anticipation. Being that it is one of the few works of art so revered she stands alone in her own climate controlled room, and after one pushes their way through a shoulder to shoulder crowd-- there she sits-- this drab little portrait displaying a plain or pretty face. Because of the high security one can only get so close, and because of the protective bulletproof glass surrounding her, one can not even get a clear photograph.


However the longer one takes the time to look at her, something fascinating begins to happen. One’s own wonderment suddenly begins to build. One may find it hard to look away and move on from the crowd. ---One may even catch themselves smiling back in soft admiration at that face.

What is the magic behind that mysterious, centuries-old, name-unknown face? Who knows? Yet, it is powerful enough to emit its wizardry through bulletproof glass and cross a crowded room.

Perhaps it is as simple as one’s subconsciousness reminding them of the true history which is before them. Or perhaps the madness of Da Vinci’s genius did place some sort of secret code one’s subconscious is secretly trying to crack. Or perhaps—just perhaps—whatever admiration Da Vinci had for that face (for whatever reason) is embedded so strongly in every brushstroke—she can cast her spell for centuries, as well as centuries to come.

That’s the true mystery behind The Mona Lisa—it has nothing to do with that smile.

© 2012 Gina Baxter


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