Leo wasn’t looking forward to her visit, not today or ever since this commission was foisted upon him.  The woman was dour, never smiling.  Always dressed in her silks or velvets, she looked at him and those working with him as if they were all insects to be squashed under the soles of her soft kid slippers.

‘If it wasn’t for the fact that her husband is Lorenzo’s friend and had already paid me, I’d have told that miserable, unsmiling harpy where to go, but there’s something there…’ Leo grumbled sotto-voce, knowing how much he needed the man’s commission and Lorenzo’s patronage.

He watched her as she walked in and sat by the window, looking insignificant against the beauty of the terracotta and ochre colours of the landscape behind her.  The woman didn’t even acknowledge him, looking ahead, staring at nothing.  He expected the sunset to be magnificent later on, but what a waste on such a subject!

Leo sighed while he moved towards his table to grab his palette and select the colours he had previously mixed.  Petruccio, his new fidgety apprentice, stood behind him, ready to help.  Leo turned to speak but never uttered a word as Petruccio slipped and landed against his master.  The impetus carried them forward and they both crashed heavily against the table, which promptly collapsed in a confusion of broken jars, pigments and oils flying everywhere.

Leo heard first the stupefied hush, then the sudden guffaws and laughs coming from the other apprentices.  He looked at Petruccio, covered in a myriad of colours, a drop of orange pigment dripping from his nose.  He expected the boy to look fearful, sorry, sheepish, but no, Petruccio looked transfixed.  Leo followed the boy’s gaze and lo and behold, there she was, smiling.  The others’ laughs had ceased too and the silence was deafening.

‘Dio mio!’ exclaimed Leo, scrambling up to grab his undamaged palette.  “Don’t move, Madonna!’ he excitedly barked.

‘Quick, Maestro, before she stops!  It was worth waiting for. That smile will survive time…’ Petruccio ecstatically pronounced.

And he was right.

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    1 year ago

    Great descriptions “. . .insects to be squashed under the soles of her soft kid slippers” and the crashing and collapsing of the studio which finally brought the hint of a smile to the sitters face. The final sentences were a surprise, but the perfect ending. Quite enjoyable.

    Margarida Brei
    Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
    1 year ago

    Sweet story Greene on the secret behind the Mona Lisa’s smile.

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    1 year ago

    There is so much to love in your story Greene, that I don’t know where to start. The setting, the colours, the characters, so descriptive. And then, the climax! Brilliant! One day I hope to visit the Louvre to see for myself that mystic smile!

    Piyali Ganguli
    Piyali Ganguli(@piyali-ganguli)
    1 year ago

    Beautiful, Greene. Reminded me of Keats’s Grecian Urn.

    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    1 year ago

    I love this, Greene, especially as it is about the one person from history that I would really love to meet, though for his inventions rather than paintings. I love the occurrence that made the lady in the portrait smile in your story. A fun tale, really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    Christer Norrlof
    Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
    1 year ago

    Yes, that smile certainly survived time, Greene. This is a different and an interesting idea to explain the reason for the enigmatic smile: an unexpected little accident in the workshop of the great master. You worked very well with the description of the colors, and chose a fitting picture for them.

    Sandra OReilly
    Sandra OReilly(@sandra-oreilly)
    1 year ago

    Hi Greene this story has all the elements – touching, funny in places and also a bit sad as to why the woman had the attitude she did at the beginning. I loved the ending – I think the way it all pulls together is really well done.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    1 year ago

    I really enjoyed it, Greene. I love the colors and the idea that make the lady in the painting smile. It is well portrayed. Well done. 

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    Reply to  Greene M Wills
    1 year ago

    You’re welcome, Greene.

    Paul Lewthwaite
    Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
    1 year ago

    A great take on the Mona Lisa smile and how it might have manifested. Liked the way you helped us see it all through the eyes of others. (With regard to the actual Mona Lisa, must admit it was a bit of an anti-climax – much smaller than I’d anticipated and with people jostling for position to see it better, a bit of rough and tumble (this was many years ago) !… Read more »

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