The (pop-eyed) Lady with the Ermine

This post is inspired by the Daily Post weekly photography challenge: Eye Spy

The Mona Lisa, taken while shopping in downtown Florence, 2013

The Lady With The Ermine, spotted shopping in downtown Florence, 2013


She was so bummed out. For years, centuries in fact, she’d done nothing but hang on the walls of the  Czartoryski Museum,  and seen nothing but the people that would take tours through the museum, stopping to gape at her as they went by.  A bunch of sycophants, they were, ogling and taking photos, sometimes even leaving the flash on their camera on, despite the warning signs written in Polish, French and English. A girl had no privacy, being gawked at 24/7.

She felt trapped by the smallness of her surroundings. She was bored with her company, all of whom were early Renaissance characters like herself, trapped in paintings on the walls around her. There were also a few statues from the same period, and some ceramic vases, but that was not enough to keep things interesting after all this time. She wanted to get out to the wider world, travel, see other places, meet other people, do what normal people of her age do. At the very least, it would be a thrill to get to the next room, which held the allure of modernity because of the Rembrandts that resided there. She was intensely curious to see if those guys were as cool as she’d heard.

To top it all off, she’d always felt a bit homesick in Poland. She’d been created in Italy, by none other than Leonardo da Vinci himself, and the status of her lofty provenance did not escape her attention. She felt that it was below her station to be stuck in Krakow, where the gallery attendants and curators spoke a language that sounded harsh to her ears. She longed to once again see the cobble-stoned streets of Florence, hear the bells ring in the tower of the Duomo, and hear the people around her speaking in her beloved Italian.

So when a whisper went around the gallery about a new product on the blackmarket that a painting could use to teleport themselves out of the Museum, she was one of the first to sign up for it. There were a lot of risks involved, she heard – the product was still in the Beta testing stage, and it was a one-use-only device, so wherever you landed you’d be staying – but she was not one to let caution get in the way. This might be her only chance, and hesitation could sentence her to another couple of hundred years stuck on the walls in Krakow.

When her teleporter arrived, she had no hesitation. Take me to Florence, she demanded of the voice-controlled device.

Well, it did indeed teleport her straight to Florence, to an outdoor setting with a view of a street market – but it was not the Florence she had been imagining. It looked alien to her. Women were walking freely in the streets, unaccompanied by men, their heads uncovered, and wearing garb somewhat like the hosiery worn by men in her memory. Both men and women wore the same kind of pantaloons, which were plain and drab, cut straight with no adornment, and mostly made of a thick, blue material that she could not identify. Some women even walked about the street with their hair cut short and no wig to disguise it! There were no horses on the streets, but some frightening compartments that carried one or two people, sometimes more, and moved past on wheels, making a loud noise.

She noticed that everywhere they went, men, women and even children all carried little devices with them, which they frequently consulted, stared into, or talked into. She could not place what these devices were but surmised that perhaps they were a variety of teleporter, that the users were staring into, in the hopes of getting away from this place.

People spoke mostly Italian, but their use of Italian was vastly different to the language as she was familiar with it. When she caught snippets of conversation from passers-by, many of the words made no sense to her at all – she could not contexualise the strange use of words like spread-sheet, search engine optimisation, twenty four seven, or brand loyalty.

She had gained her longed-for freedom, but she found that it was not all what she had expected. Being hung on an outdoor wall in a street meant that she was just part of the incidental scenery, not something people came on tours to see. People took less notice of her, indeed many took no notice of her at all, which afforded her more privacy, but caused a dent in her self-esteem. She started to feel isolated in quite a different way, and found herself questioning the value of her existence in the world as an artwork. As an artwork, she was created to be looked at, admired and pondered over, and if no-one was looking at her, then she performed no function at all. Her life began to feel meaningless.

All in all, she was more miserable with the surroundings that she found herself in now. What version of Florence this was, she did not know, but if she ever got the chance to get another teleporter, she would leave this place quick smart.

She mused over this desire frequently, and was musing over it again one afternoon when a group of young people came right up to her, laughing and joking amongst themselves, and jostling one another around. They were carrying equipment that she could not identify, and suddenly one of them – she could not tell whether male or female – glued two orange circles on the glass panel right over where her eyes were. They all laughed heartily at this, and stood back to admire her persecutor’s handywork, and then they all went merrily on their way.

Now on top of everything else, she couldn’t see anything except at the peripheries of her vision.

She thought about her previous view, a clear view, from a position high on the walls of the museum, over the adoring crowds below her. She even thought fondly of the little signs everywhere, warning visitors not to touch the art. Tears welled in her eyes, but they were hidden from view by the orange circles. No-one was looking at her anyway.

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  1. The subject of imagination came up in connection with your previous post and this post is as good an example of imagination at work as you may need.

    The post also illustrates another feature of the human mind, namely how easy we find it to project human feelings, desires and motives onto objects and how easily we accept this when presented with it while still knowing that lifeless objects cannot possibly think and feel.

    I tried, and failed, to identify the logo in the top left of the image. I was intrigued to know whether this was a poster or a piece of street art. Also, what do the yellow caps on the eyes seek to tell us?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Silver Tiger, in my memory I thought of it as street art, but when I was closely scrutinising my photo yesterday I realised that it looks like a poster, which someone has added the eyes to. Not sure if it’s actually a poster for anything official though. I’m also unable to make out the logo, the closest I could think was maybe it was a poster for the Uffizi – but that work is not in the Uffizi….well according to the very quick research I did while writing this post! Thanks about the imagination: I saw the Daily Prompt about eyes, & thought of my travel photos, & of course when I saw that photo it had to be the one so then I had to think of something to write. It was taken in Florence, right near what Americans call a flea-market.


  2. weebluebirdie

     /  December 11, 2015

    Wow! I loved this. Such a brilliant take on the old adage of being careful what you wish for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you! I just wanted a silly story, & wasn’t necessarily aiming for it to have a moral, but I needed a way to sew it all up. Glad you liked it!


  3. Brilliant take on the challenge! Love the image and the words are worth a thousand pictures. So clever

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for that, even when it’s a photography challenge I like to write! Coming across that photo was just perfect & set the challenge! Glad you liked it, thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person


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