Black women are taking selfies in front of the Mona Lisa to challenge continuing beauty and power stereotypes

Drawing of the Mona Lisa in the streets of Florence directly on the pavement.
Drawing of the Mona Lisa in the streets of Florence directly on the pavement.

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait of Mona Lisa in the Carters ‘Apesh-t music video is radical.

We see a black power couple; Beyoncé, a black woman flexing her own value and allure on the Mona Lisa in a pastel power suit. 

She is making a strong statement, and solidifying herself in front of one of the most prominent symbols of traditional beauty. Leonardo used the divine number and the golden standard of beauty in his works of art.

“I can’t believe we made it” she sings, while we see black women dancing around the lavish white museum that has a rich history deeply rooted in colonialism. And a global legacy of stolen artwork across many well-regarded museums and galleries.

A professor of art history James Smalls who spoke to Vox, says little of the art at Louvre Museum features black people in positions of strength and power, only as servants - because blacks were not considered worthy subjects of paintings. 

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“In a way, Beyoncé is exploiting/marketing her blackness as creativity - as a kind of weapon - within and against the very Eurocentric system of culture and consumption from which she has benefitted,” he said.

Other black women have followed suit and are now sharing photos of themselves in front of the portrait often described as timeless beauty according to Listverse.

The Twitter thread was started by 28-year-old journalist Darian Harvin who challenged women to post pictures standing in front of the iconic portrait. 

She said it was not a black elitist traveler thread but a resistance against Eurocentric beauty standards that still dominate our modern society. 

“I just feel like Mona Lisa has been fed as this "traditionally beautiful" woman, and when I see black women stand confidently in front of it, I think it pushes back against this notion of who is "beautiful," she said.

Here are pictures of black women who accepted the challenge and posted their pictures on the thread.

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"This has to be the thread of the month,"one Twitter user commented.

Another added, "I'm here for this thread! and my black sisters embracing their beauty"

However others have argued that, she is not a symbol of white beauty, but rather a plain, unadorned woman who has captured the hearts of many.

One tweep wrote: "I never thought of the Mona Lisa as a painting on beauty. I always viewed it as a puzzle," 

The thread has since gone viral, with 65K likes and 1.8K black women who joined in the conversation and shared their pictures.

One myth that surrounds the artwork, according to the New York Post, is that the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had a crush on Mona Lisa and hung her portrait in his bedroom, where he admired her beauty for hours.

He was later infatuated with a young Italian woman who bore a striking resemblance to her.

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Darian says Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile and gaze have made her painting one of the most recognisable in history, “but I also think the painting has, over time, contributed to ideals around beauty and what's acceptable.

My hope was that if I shared my photo, other black girls would feel encouraged to as well, and we could reinforce the idea that beauty comes in all forms," she added.

Do you think Mona Lisa represents outdated beauty standards and power that are still being perpetuated? Chat to us here

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