The Real Mona Lisa
Or the Fake Ones

This is the backstory. In all of our lives, we experience transformative moments. They are golden opportunities that change our lives. Six decades ago, at Muskingum College, all students had to take a 10-hour art history class called The Arts. Students could take it in either their junior or senior years. It was divided into five hours per semester, during which you attended three lectures and two sub-subsections weekly. I took it in my junior year and loved it. At the end of the second semester, the professor, Louie Palmer, called me into his office and asked me to be his teaching assistant. I did well in the class even though I didn’t ace it. However, Louie saw something in me that changed my life.

Essentially, I retook the class. I had the opportunity to teach art history to my classmates as an undergraduate. I also wrote and graded the midterms and finals for both semesters. I have taught various humanities classes in the past quarter century, but art history is my favorite. Whenever a famous painting, sculpture, musical composition, book, or architecture is in the news, I’ll read about it.

That was the backstory. Today, Trump must come up with $464 million in a civil judgment case filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in front of Judge Arthur Engoron. Enter the Trump paradox. While extremely rich, Trump can’t come up with a measly half billion bucks. Honestly, I thought that the Donald would have called Elon Musk or Mohammed bin Salman. Tapes of those calls would make the Watergate tapes pale in comparison.

James could seize one or more of his properties if Trump can’t find a half billion dollars sitting around at Mar-a-Lago. Each property is called his Mona Lisa. Here is a list of them.

Trump Park Avenue, New York, N.Y.
Trump Tower, New York, N.Y.
40 Wall Street, New York, N.Y.
Seven Springs, Westchester County, N.Y.
Trump International Hotel and Tower, Las Vegas, Nevada
Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida
Trump National Golf Club Westchester, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, Mooresville, North Carolina
Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck, Colts Neck, New Jersey
Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C., Sterling, Virginia
Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley, Hopewell Junction, N.Y.
Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, Jupiter, Florida
Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia, Pine Hill, New Jersey
Trump International Golf Links Scotland (Aberdeen)
Trump International Golf Links Scotland (Turnberry)

While Trump claims he is a “very stable genius,” I’m unsure whether he knows what the Mona Lisa looks like. Had he attended Muskingum, he could have been in one of the subsections that dealt with the Italian Renaissance painters. Additionally, why would Trump use his buildings and golf courses as a Mona Lisa? He is comparing a painting with a building. If he had taken my class my art history class, I could have listed my choices of the top sixteen buildings for him.

Hagia Sophia
The Colosseum
The Forbidden City
The Guggenheim
Taj Mahal
St. Basil’s Cathedral
Potala Palace
Brandenburg Gate
Tower Bridge
Casa Milà Building
Neuschwanstein Castle
Château Frontenac
Great Wall of China
Dome of the Rock
Baha’i Temple of South America

Beyond Trump’s inane comparing his properties with a painting, I bet some of my millions in liquid assets that he couldn’t name the painter of the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci was a self-made person who worked in multiple fields: engineering, inventing, sculpting, and painting. When it came to various sciences, he also excelled there.

Trump claims he is “a very stable genius,” which is a lie. The Donald is neither stable nor a genius. However, when artists, scientists, and inventors label Leonardo, they use terms like Renaissance Man, Universal Genius, and Unquenchable Curiosity and Imagination.

Leonardo started painting his Mona Lisa in 1503, and textbooks claim it took four years to finish. However, that painting never left his side for his entire life. Textbooks also claim that it was for the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

There is no record that Leonardo was commissioned to paint a portrait by Francesco del Giocondo. That raises a couple of questions. If Giocondo paid Leonardo to paint a portrait of his wife, why didn’t Leonardo give him his wife’s portrait when he finished it? Instead, Leonardo carried his painting around wherever he went until he died. King François I, the French king for whom Leonardo worked, wound up with the Mona Lisa.

The story is that Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to paint the Mona Lisa for Giocondo himself. He wrote that in his memoir thirty years after Leonardo’s death. Giocondo seems to have had a problem of lying like Trump. There is no proof that Giocondo paid Leonardo to do the portrait. Besides, if he had, why did Giocondo allow Leonardo to take the painting to Paris, where Leonardo was the artist for King François I until he died?

Then there is another issue. There seems to be a charcoal drawing on the canvas over which Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa. The question is, who was the person Leonardo sketched the face and then painted the Mona Lisa over it? Every art expert believes they genuinely know who the subject was under the Mona Lisa, and none of them agree.

The Mona Lisa plus

The Mona Lisa plus

A half millennia after the first Mona Lisa, Nat King Cole recorded a song about the Mona Lisa.

The Donald not only compares the buildings and golf courses to the Mona Lisa, but he also compares himself to the popularity of the Mona Lisa. People go to see the Mona Lisa over and over again. People come to his rallies over and over again. In both cases, “It gets better every time.”