I have one game on my phone, which I play for free. Pokémon Shuffle. A tile-matching game that reminds me of a long distant time, the hazily recalled smells and sounds of playing the budget game Pokémon Puzzle Challenge on Game Boy Advance. Right now, over fifty levels in, I stand in la Galerie Rouge, a very Nintendo kind of European style fine art gallery. With that as the stage framing, these wonderful pieces of art greet me there every time I battle.
Who is that in the background? Larger than life, is it the Mona Lisa? Why, yes, I think it is! While so much closer to works by Amedeo Modigliani, the grand sized portrait conjures up the instant impression of da Vinci’s tiny Renaissance portrait. Cropped with a completely different framing to the original (more alike the wiki page of the subject), a smudge landscape on just one side, and a nose and eye line defined by shading, the 3 minute approximation gets down the famous likeness just about.
Look closer and you’ll see another Italian Renaissance style portrait, more faithful to the signatures of the actual period, hanging on the wall by behind the stage number. This one gets pose, framing and even pallete more accurate to the Madonnas of the time for instance, and yet is hidden, while old big face hogs the limelight.
The fact that it’s this version of a painting, smile missing and almost every detail off, which is chosen to represent the idea of art is interesting.
Art history, as written, sees it as incredibly important that the painting’s mouth, her smile, was painted over, multiple times by Leonardo. The asset artist clearly doesn’t reckon it as important to conjuring the symbol of the spectre of art in this setting, and it isn’t. That smile has never made an impression on me, nor most of the world in person, and for all the words jizzed into textbooks about it, it’s irrelevant to the overall monolith the work has become.
I want to congratulate whoever managed to realise that and plonk this sketch right in there. The impression still works, the doodle where landscape leaks into the foreground, is still enough to tell me what I should be feeling. For some reason there’s Pokémon all over this gallery, Mona Lisa, she’s just chilling, not smiling, not frowning, not telling a story. She is little more than what she truly represents to the public, a symbol of the museum, of prestige, fame and capital in A-R-T art. She’s irrelevant, but to remind us of overwhelmingly ludicrous auction prices and that our likeness, and the impression we make, is all that remains. But potential to be digitally turned into blurs 500 years in our future.