Jacob Charles Wilson

Scrapbook: Robyn Daly, Mona Lisa on my Desk, 2018

A photograph of a table laid with a rose in a glass, a lighter, a lemon, and a dishcloth printed with the image of the Mona Lisa.
Robyn Daly, Mona Lisa on my Desk, 2018

My eye was caught by the stark flat white and endless black. The light cast left-to-right by a relentless sun and shaped by the window frame into a diagonal rectangle. The fuzzy edges of the shadow and the beams scattered by the faceted Duralex glass. The stillness and silence of each part: the yellow lemon, the single pure white rose and lighter, the picture within the picture. The Mona Lisa—the symbol of fine art, the most reproduced image in art history, reduced to a dishcloth.

Cut out of the frame and printed on fabric, the Mona Lisa's 'perfect' face is crumpled and distorted. Is it disrespectful, or would the purchase of his work please him? Either way, the dishcloth brings down the tone of the picture, it's not an art gallery, it's a domestic scene. But at the same time, this is still an arranged scene, it only gives the pretence of being domestic, as any still life does.

This photograph fits neatly into the language and history of still life, in its subject matter and composition it imitates Dutch paintings of the 17th Century—the so-called Golden Era—and draws on our associations of these paintings to wealth, leisure, luxury, and cosmopolitan sophistication. As a photograph, it's related to a history of still lifes such as William Eggleston's Glass in Airplane (1965-74), one of my favourite pictures.

Unlike Eggleston's picture, this one lacks any sign of people: Who will return to clear up this scene, to refill the empty glass, to spark the lighter and throw the dishcloth back into the sink? In Dutch still lifes it would invariably be a servant, in Eggleston's picture it would be an air hostess, in this image, it's more likely to be the photographer themself, enjoying a cigarette moments after clicking.

I found this picture on Paper Journal's Instagram, where photographer Robyn Daly from Melbourne is currently doing a takeover.