Los Angeles

Vernon Mona Lisa

Otis Art Institute

Nothing delights the man on the street quite so much as being witness to dissension between the high and the mighty even though it might involve their own personal security. Public interest in the presentation of the Vernon Mona Lisa at the Otis Art Institute was assured before the doors opened, for this painting, while not on public view for over four and a half centuries, has been the’ subject of much international debate, recently rekindled when Life magazine featured a story about its imminent public exposure in Los Angeles.

Officials connected with the institution were quick to establish their own uncommitted stand in the controversy over its authentification as a genuine Leonardo da Vinci and equally unhesitant in relating the fabulously intriguing history of the work.

Through investigation of family archives and giving free rein to a romantic turn of mind, it has been possible to make a fairly reputable circumstantial case for the painting having been given to William Henry Vernon by Marie Antoinette as reward for spiriting the young Dauphin of France from the Bastille and out of the hands of the bloodthirsty revolutionists to safety in America. Original and facsimile documents from these records were on view in the gallery along with copies of x-rays taken of the painting and statements of authentification by various art experts. One curious exhibit was a dress prominently displayed on a mannequin which, the label stated, was brought to America by Vernon in 1797. The importance of the gown’s presence as supporting data was unexplained, except that it was obvious the staff was hard-put to gather enough material to make a good show of it.

Curt Opliger