The Mona Lisa's 57 faces at the CCP

MANILA, Philippines - Once described as a “miraculous psychological portrait,” Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503 - 1507) has been a subject of various interpretations. The ambiguity that surrounds the world’s most recognizable painting has attracted countless studies, analyses, parodies, and reproductions.

Mona Lisa’s enigmatic countenance and real identity have stirred more bizarre interpretations than any work of art. Artists attempt to create their own Mona Lisa using their distinct styles and aesthetic concerns.

The Mona Lisa Project

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in cooperation with West Gallery launched the exhibit “The Mona Lisa Project” last April 24. The exhibit is open to the public until June 16. It is located at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo at the CCP Main Theater Building.

The project displays 57 works from 57 of the most dynamic artists in the Manila art scene today. Curated by Nilo Illarde, the participating artists are:

According to West Gallery, the works in the exhibit are “a merging of varied interests and perspectives” on the Mona Lisa.

The iconic portrait drew myriad interpretations among the artists. They treated the subject with their respective styles and genres. The result is a rich collection of Mona Lisa interpretations.

Most of the artists deformed Mona Lisa’s face; others overhauled the subject’s appearance, creating a novel Mona Lisa who is fat, old, or alien-looking. Some artists took on a playful mood by putting a mustache, mask, veil, and pop element onto the subject.

For Mona


Visitors look at some wall-bound pieces in the free exhibit 'The Mona Lisa Project'

West Gallery owner and visual artist Soler Santos started The Mona Lisa Project as a personal, long-term project. The collection is his present to his wife, Mona, who is also a painter.

“It started when my wife and I were talking, and we started wondering why we never collected any Mona Lisa (her namesake) souvenirs or memorabilia on any of our trips to Europe,” he told Rappler.

Santos then started contacting his artist friends (about two years ago) and asked them to create their own styles or versions of the Mona Lisa. He eventually commissioned other artists, too. To date, he has 57 versions of the iconic painting, and all are on display at the CCP.

The Mona Lisa Project also serves as a venue for Santos to support young artists. He has been collecting art from them since the ‘90s. “I like collecting art and supporting young artists. Even before The Mona Lisa Project, I was already collecting work by artists I liked,” he said.

Lone sculpture


Pete Jimenez's version of the Mona Lisa is the lone sculpture in the exhibit

The works in the exhibit are not only limited to oil on canvas. There are also mixed media, collage, and digital print, among others.

Pete Jimenez’s work of the Mona Lisa is the lone sculpture in the exhibit. Jimenez is a sculptor who transforms hard intractable materials such as iron into sculptural statements.

“Soler asked me to come up with my own interpretation of the Mona Lisa using my own style and approach,” said Jimenez. The result was a unique steel sculpture of the iconic portrait built within 3 days. The entire creative process lasted for about two weeks.

Jimenez describes the Mona Lisa as “an artwork that is mysterious because of the many interpretations by other artists, art writers, and art critics…the artwork asks a lot of questions to the viewer and vice versa." -

Ces Natalie Crisostomo (@CesnaCrisostomo) and Dionisio Pobar III (@jonpobar) are Rappler interns.