The Unfinished Smile

I read last week that works of art worth £400 million pounds, stolen last year from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, are now in fact believed to have been dumped and crushed in a rubbish truck.

Peter Baker | 22:41, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mona Lisa

It's enough to wipe the look off the Mona Lisa! Of whose curious smile I had my first live experience in August. 

Like millions, I'd seen the Mona Lisa many times before in a book, but there's no substitute for standing in the Louvre museum , in front of this iconic image as she smiles elusively. Her eyes appear to know all about you. Yet in return she gives nothing of herself away. Possibly the most famous portrait of all time and we are largely ignorant of what Leonardo Da Vinci the artist was attempting to say through it.

We know her name of course Lisa Del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant. 

But beyond that, we just have theories put forward to explain the enigmatic pose. 

Whatever the actual intent of Da Vinci, we do know that he began to paint his subject in 1503. But then for four years he lingered over it's completion, before leaving it, in his estimation, unfinished. 

It's that sense of deliberate incompleteness which may explain why Mona Lisa's smile appears frozen, as if caught between moods, uncertain whether to laugh or not. 

As he looked back in later life over his brilliant career, Da Vinci wistfully commented, "I have never completed a single work."  Quite an admission for a genius.  

What I do recognise from my own life observation is how many of us carry unfinished agendas- with threads untied, relationships unmended, projects incomplete and ambitions unfulfilled. 

It would be reassuring to know that such a life indicates how busy as opposed to how disorganised we have been! Yet there's a nagging feeling that haunts some of us that actually we may be a far better starter than finisher.  

So what an extraordinary life it must be that can say with confidence as Jesus did on the cross, "It is finished!"

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