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Corona Chronicles 3: La Gioconda

Written by my friend, Clara Zabludowsky, who found inspiration on a park in London.

March 4th, 1504.

Day 7 of the lockdown.

Florence, Italy

This was not the plan. It was supposed to be a quick two-day sitting. A sketch to honor the birth of Andrea, a little memento per se to mark the oh so magical moment when I became a mother for the second time. By the way only a man would think that this makes a good push present. “Why don’t you go put your postpartum body in a girdle and sit still in a stuffy old room that stinks of paint for 8 hours.” Great idea Francesco. How about a wet nurse instead? Or just some flowers for God’s sake… No need to get creative.

But instead the quarantine caught me here, stuck with this weirdo Leonardo in this room full of strange things and no matter how much I have wanted to leave, I can’t leave. The caribinieri are patrolling the streets and arresting anyone that is as much as going for a stroll – let alone making a run for it with a bag full of potential portrait outfit changes.

Leonardo doesn’t speak except to tell me to turn this way, or “smile”. He should try it himself sometime but instead I just get the occasional grunt. He was particularly unimpressed yesterday when I told him I liked his drawing of the man doing jumping jacks. I was joking, obviously. Touchy man.

Finally today at lunch there was a breakthrough. He thanked me for being here to cook for him – it turns out that’s the one thing this man can’t do. Maybe if he stopped wasting his time learning how to write backwards he could learn how to fry an egg. But I guess that’s too practical for him. 

In any case, the ribollita, some wine and the dawning realization that we may only be seeing each others faces for the next month seems to have loosened him up and during the afternoon sitting we even spoke a little bit. It was mainly small talk but it was a relief to break the silence, even the portraits on the wall seemed grateful for some banter. He told me about his childhood in Anchiano and how he first dreamt of becoming a musician. He seemed particularly curious about our new house and I told him we’d had trouble finding help since the move.

“So does this mean Francesco is alone at home with both babies?” Leonardo asked.
“Yes,” I replied. And the thought of that made me smile. Just a little bit.

The Corona Chronicles is a column, contributed through a first-person essay, where deceased artists, muses and art world personalities vent about how their lives have been altered and interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drastic times call for creative measures. 

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