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A Mona Lisa Crush

by Christine Champagne

A Mona Lisa Crush

What would da Vinci do about the crazy crush at the Louvre? Photo: Christine Champagne

She was expecting crowds when she went to see the Mona Lisa. She wasn't expecting a madhouse.

PARIS, France – I assumed I would spend hours standing in line at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, and I was fine with that. I would shuffle along a slow-moving queue, chatting with fellow tourists to pass the time, sneaking M&M's from my purse to keep my blood sugar up. After what seemed like forever, it would finally be my turn to file by the masterpiece. I would enjoy no more than a moment or two absorbing La Gioconda's greatness, but it would have been worth the wait.

I was expecting a rewarding travel experience tinged with tediousness. If only it had been that genteel. I found a rude and teeming mob. Un bordel, as the French would say.

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was caught in a swarm of paparazzi vying to get a shot of Justin Bieber emerging from a strip club. A throng of people jostled about, most clutching cameras. The more aggressive charged forward with Canons — there were so many Canons — raised in the air, allowing no one to stand in their way. One man whacked a teenager in the ear with his enormous DSLR, which may or may not have been a Canon. I don't remember. Maybe I got hit in the head, too.

But these tourists were jockeying for a photo of the Mona Lisa (an image better captured in gift shop postcards); no one was jockeying to spend time looking with, oh, their eyes. Little wonder the painting stayed removed from the fray, hidden behind a thick layer of glass that kept museum-goers at a distance.

I just stood there observing the disturbing scene. I wanted to shout, "We're in a museum full of beautiful art! Why are you acting like this?"

But I kept quiet because crazy outbursts get you kicked out of museums.

Once I gathered the courage, I slid into the crowd and threaded my way — as delicately as I could — toward the front of the pack, turning around and snapping a few photos, including the one above, of the mob furiously photographing a work of art few of them would really look at while they had the privilege of being in her presence.

To be honest, I didn't get a good look at the painting either. I wound up off to the side of the gallery, and I didn't have the energy — or, more accurately, the jabbing elbows — required to get close to the Mona Lisa.


Musée du Louvre
99 rue de Rivoli
Paris 75001
Closed Tuesdays


Can't go to Paris? It can come to you. (FATHOM Shop)

Christine is a New York City-based writer who celebrates creativity in media, advertising, business, and design. She travels for the joy of seeing new things and meeting new people and would ultimately love to see the Earth from space.


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