top of page

Becoming Mona Lisa - Episode 4

Updated: Mar 23, 2022


It was the evening of fifteenth day of my sitting when Francesco returned making a handsome fortune. He was very happy. After dinner when we sat in our salotto he proposed, “Signor Vinci, I want to invite some of our friends and relatives in your honour, if you grant us to.” He looked at me for support, which I immediately extended.

“You do not need my consent, signor Francesco. But I want to discuss about my commissioning and wage with you.” His tone clearly revealed that he wanted the discussion in private. I left the salotto.

Leonardo left for Cesena in next two days. He promised to send the portrait once completed. I never had to sit for him again. Francesco never told me what he had discussed with him, but he was happy.

My life and time were going by in their own accord. I was unassailable as the wife and the mother.

In the last week of February, 1504 a big parcel arrived from Cesena for Francesco. We knew what that was, but he wanted to unwrap that ceremonially. My desperation was somehow able to convince him that only we two, husband and wife, would see the portrait that night. When everybody retired to bed, we two spread the pioppo on the table in the studio. Time stood still, words were lost, and my own existence felt petit. He had drawn me as a virtuous woman and a loyal wife, in front of an imaginary backdrop having two regal pillars opening towards a green field at sunset. My upright sitting posture with folded arms gave me a look of a reserved, noble woman. My gaze towards the imaginary observer had emphasized my characteristics that he intended to portray. But, he had given an unearthly smile in my lips which definitely was not their when I gave sitting. He didn’t draw my eye-brows for giving me the look of a noble lady as that was the fashion for them.

I looked at him in moist eyes when he told me, “He had denied his wage.” I couldn’t believe my ears. How could someone deny two thousand florins?

We went to bed. I couldn’t sleep. Even after witnessing my libidinous self, why did he portray me like that? Did he mock me? Did he really understand me? Was it just for him to overshadow his own genius? Why did he refused take his wage? Had he feelings for me? Had he seen the lady of Siena in me? Why was I so concerned?

As life moves forward holding hands of time many memories becomes inexistent, many becomes ashen, some remains confined unremembered.

I had become engrossed in my domestic life. My elder daughter Camilia became nun in the convent of San Domenico di Cafaggio at the age of sixteen. But brutal destiny took her way from us when she was only eighteen. Our two sons Piero and Giocondo followed their father’s path. Sant’Orsola was one the convents in Florence which was held in high esteem among others. Francesco’s influence on administration of Florence helped me to build up a strong relationship with that convent, where we placed our youngest daughter Marietta.

Seldom, in those days of my dedicated involvement in domestic life, I could ruminate the memories of spring of 1503. Though a personality like him was always in news and I knew about him what others knew. He had moved to France in 1516 permanently retiring from services of Pope Leo X in Vatican. He had become an intimate friend of Francis I, the King of France. Leonardo was given the manor house of Clos Lucé in the city of Amboise by the King near his palace.

In 1519, entire Italy mourned along with France for final departure of her most illustrious child, Leonardo da Vinci. It was 4th of May when we came to know about his demise, two days after his death. Behind the closed door, that night, I lamented long. When no more tears were left in me, I realised how I had treasured the spring of 1503 in abyss of my heart - those moments by the Arno, on the streets of Florence, in his bed. Unknowingly, his words were cherished within me. But, did he remember me at all? Did he think of me, even for once, in those sixteen years?

Next morning the Sun rose in the east, as usual. But for me, the Sun had set forever. He had taken away all the fragrances of my life with him.

Life and time never stopped for anyone. Not even for Leonardo da Vinci. Years passed by. In 1538, a plague turned to epidemic which took away Francesco from me. Though he had provisioned a huge fortune for me in the year previous, I took refuge in Sant’Orsola donating my fortune there.

One evening in the monsoon of 1539 a messenger arrived from Clos Lucé in Amboise. Prioress called me, “Monsieur Jacques de Brilhac travelled from far-off Amboise in your search. He carries a parcel which cannot be handed over to anyone but you. I will take your leave for evening service.”

I said him courteously, “Monsieur Brilhac, I am beyond any doubt about your lassitude from such a long journey. If it is not a matter of urgency I will request you to rest.”

With his French etiquette he said, “Signora Lisa, this matter has waited for last two decades beyond anyone’s notice in dark.”

“Then waiting for another night will not make any considerable difference.”

“Besides I will have to return to France with your reply as soon as I hand this over to you, it may make difference for you.”

I looked at him curiously. “The manor house of Clos Lucé where Signor Vinci spent his last years, was undergoing repairs when from a drawer of a closet this parcel was found with your name on it. I was immediately sent for you.”

I felt the appetence, which I had felt in a day of spring thirty six years ago.

Monsieur Brilhac handed a leather envelope and a big rolled parcel to me. I said, “Monsieur you must rest now as I will have to attend the evening service. At breakfast tomorrow I will talk to you. You can’t make your journey at these hours in this downpour.” I called a postulant and asked her to show Monsieur Brilhac the dormitory in the hospice and arrange foods for him.

After the evening service I retired to my chamber. Eyesight had become blurry. I lit up another candle. Inside that leather envelope was another envelope, in which was the note. It was a twenty years old piece of pioppo, preserving his impeccably slightly scripts.

01st May, 1519

Clos Lucé, Amboise, France


Not many days are left for I have heard his tread.

At these dernier moments, some memories still bear fragrance of newly abloom. Cecelia was the cold shadow one needs in a summer midday. You were the fire which warms and purifies. But, softness of that shadow or the warmth of that fire was not something life wanted to make perdurable for me.

Infallible is undying allurement of masculine towards feminine. In these last days I feel no shame to confess that for Cecilia that allurement had nested in me, though never awakened. But for you I never felt that allurement.

Your devotion for your husband, for your children was beyond such allurement. Though you were not the only one of your kind, but the desperate revolution you had in you for searching your own self made you so. When you had bared yourself that night I saw that revolution in you.

All along I have spent my life in solitude. Rather I had embraced it. One thing this solitude gave me is the time I needed to talk to myself, to hear my thoughts well, to emend myself.

Since I have started living in Clos Lucé my solitude became my master. It made me to realise how my portrayal of you had confined the irrepressible vigour of yours. You cannot be limited to such a confined background. There at, I ventured again from my memory though it had become quite vague with age. I had completed that two years ago, but was indecisive for sending to you.

But I will go in empty hands as I had come. And, if there is anyone to own this, it is you. You are the owner, rightfully. I do not know if this will reach you when I am alive.

I do not know if you will be alive when this reaches Via Della Stufa. But it will be yours.


With tears of that treasured night in eyes I opened the roll of pioppo. I was exactly the same as he had drawn me three and half decades ago. How can someone imitate his memory flawlessly? I could not find even slightest of difference. But that was not about the painting at all. It was the background - wide and mysterious. Was it Arno? Where was it? No land, in my knowing, looked like that. Such endless horizon for a woman who seldom went out of Florence was nothing but freedom.

I kept looking at his work, at me for long. Time had again stopped for the sixty years old woman as it had for a twenty five years old wife and mother. I could not sleep at all that night. I could spend rest of my life looking at that horizon, one night compared to that was dime. The rain stayed up with me.

Next morning, after the morning service I met Monsieur Brilhac in the hospice at breakfast.

“I hope you had a comfortable night”, I asked him.

“Undoubtedly the bed was very comfortable.”

Porridge was served for us, though I didn’t have any appetite. “How did he die?” I asked.

“We know that Signor Vinci died of his old age. Though I was a mere boy at that time, living far from Amboise.”

As we finished breakfast he said, “I will prefer to start for Amboise with your reply, before the rain starts again.”

“Ready your horse. I will meet you at Priory gate.” Refreshing petrichor had filled the air. Clouds had made the atmosphere lachrymose. Not many were near the priory gate in fear of torrent again. I handed the portrait in the leather roll over to him. He asked, “Wasn’t this for you?”

“It was. But I have no such covert where I can keep such treasure.” He looked confused for if that was such a treasure how could I hand that over to him, whom I barely knew.

“I had heard that he was an intimate friend of the King of France.”

“We all know that way.”

“Then, give this to him. He will know what to do with this.”

The young lad was might have been thinking about the obscure woman he was sent for. For whom Leonardo da Vinci had left a treasure, which she wanted to give away to the King of France.

“Do you have any notes for the King?”

I smiled, “just tell him Leonardo’s Lisa has sent this.”

As soon he bid me farewell and mounted his horse the rain started.

Raindrops carried my tears to him through the soil. Alone standing in the downpour I looked on to the endless horizon, to where the most precious treasure of my life, the last resort of my existence was galloping away from me.

47 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page