Some say he painted a secret within her. Certainly, her eyes, her lips, her gentle hands folded and at rest, seemed to be concealing something, withholding something special. I met her gaze; the eyes of a dead noblewoman forever immortalized by paint and varnish and the value of the ages.
I pushed slightly to the front of the crowd for a better look. We were all vulgar spies and snoops then; pressing up against her window to see her famed smile that was praised and recognized all over the world. Maybe each of us looked too hard in order to unlock whatever secret she kept. It was just as if she had been facing left, looking to the side as most Renaissance paintings were done anyway, then had turned suddenly and gracefully to face us full-on and flash that enigmatic smile; to greet her gaggle of wide-eyed admirers. As close as I could get, I saw a hint of good-natured mockery, of subtle teasing, of calm amusement. She was ‘Am I pretty?’ ‘Let’s wait and see’ and ‘You sweet summer child’ all rolled up into one.
They called her many things, I knew. An enigma, an illusion. A mask for a greater truth concealed by a ancient genius. And throughout time she was a teacher, a commodity, an example, an ideal, a kidnap victim, a Jane Doe, a muse, a mystery. Whatever she was, she wasn’t JUST a painting. Love her though he did, the Maestro could not have expected how much more beautiful she would become long after his death. She was lovely the day he had added the final touches to her perfect form; but the eyes of millions of people throughout time has made her even more beautiful.
Back then I was trying to force myself to stay in the moment and look at her for as long as I could. Only now do I realize that maybe, that was her secret.
Be yourself, remain as you are, and those who look upon you will see true beauty.
How did she stand there, so pure and natural and honest, yet seem to hold back a myriad of mysteries with one simple smile? We looked at her. And she looked right back at us.
The crowd grew larger, and I turned round and edged away. I had seen enough, but I knew that I could never have my fill. The questions I’d have for the Maestro when I met him in heaven!
She sat there, relaxed and poised, lighting up the large room though dim and small her painting was. At first glance, she had seemed to say ‘I know something you don’t.’ But as I had stood there, absorbing every line and shade and nuance, I thought I faintly heard her whisper, ‘Your secrets are safe with me.’