What’s behind Mona Lisa’s smile? Like, literally!

We are used to observe the masterpieces in museums, getting overwhelmed by the beauty of its features, but what would be the feeling of seeing an artwork, literally, from the back? It is precisely this “small” curiosity of seeing the most important pieces “free from prejudice” that the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz has been trying to satisfy.  In the series called Verso, the Portuguese word for “back”, the artist has recreated 15 reverse sides of some of the most iconic artworks in the world (or at least, we believe so).

From Van Gogh’s Starry Night  to Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring, the visitors of the current exhibition displayed at the Mauritshuis museum may even think that they have walked into a restoration room by mistake. But, in fact, Muniz has brought to the public the privilege that was restricted to museums staff. More than sharing the beauty and uniqueness of each work, the artist reveals the true story behind each one of the great masterpieces. As the years go by the back of a painting changes, the metal brackets, the labels and all the other marks tell the story of its past. This particular exhibition gives us a chance to learn about each painting’s previous owners as well as its journey. 

Back of van Gogh's 'Starry Night'

Back of van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’

Muniz’ inspiration started when he visited The Museum of Art of São Paulo and had the chance of seeing the back of the displayed paintings for the first time. The certainty, on a visit to the Guggenheim (New York),when, at looking to the back of Picasso’s Ironing Woman, he felt like it was like looking at a naked person. In 2012 Vik Muniz began photographing the backs of famous paintings, but more than simply exhibit the photos, he had the idea of producing it in real size 3D copies. At the same year, he presented at the Sikkema, Jenkins & Co. the reverse sides of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Renoir’s Woman with a Parrot. Not every piece of this Verso series was easy: just to photograph the back of La Gioconda (better know as The Mona Lisa), the artist spent six years trying to convince The Louvre.

At this Mauritshuis’ exhibition, the backs  of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft, Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch and Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp were shown for the first time.  The artist is already exploring his possibities with Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Rembrandt's 'The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp'

Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’

Vik Muniz with his reproduction of the backside of ‘La Gioconda (Mona Lisa)’

Aware of the importance and beauty of the backs, many shairart’s artists are already incorporating, in their profiles, photos of the artworks in this perspective. Fernando Gaspar is a great example of that.