Mona Lisa from the Market

February 27, 2015 - single portrait

When my son was serving his year in the army, I went to visit him in the beautiful old city of Novgorod In Russia.

After I hugged him properly and fed him and his mates with home-made sweets from Holland, they returned to their duties. I was left on my own to wander the somber streets of Novgorod. I walked into a small market place, where local artists were selling their arts & crafts. It was the usual touristic stuff, lots of overpriced kitsch, but I spotted a tent where a woman was selling hair-clips and wallets made of leather, in typical Russian folk style. So, I bought something I didn’t need and took a picture of Natalia. The leather pieces were hers and her husband’s creations. Both of them graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, both worked as teachers at the art school for children, both  were selling their stuff on the market,  because a school teacher salary couldn’t provide.

But this is not a sad story I wanted to tell. It might be not a sad story at all, if people can make beautiful things and stick to their passion and to each other, no matter what.  The reason I wanted to share with you this picture of Natalia, is that I thought she looked like Mona Lisa. Seriously. Some kind of aura of purity was around her, as if she was floating in her own clean and shiny bubble above the muddy asphalt and the marketplace commotion.  And her soft smile was lighting up the small tent and the whole market place, and maybe even the whole journey of mine.

Mona Lisa from the local market. That’s how I remember her.

As always with the portraits of strangers, I wonder what become of her.

And as always, I will never know.

› tags: 100strangers / digital / olgavansaanephotography / photography / portrait / Russia /


  1. How perfectly you saw this faint resemblance, really so. Love your writings and your portraits as usual , Olga !

  2. Lena, thank you soooo much! I am glad you like my Mona Lisa… 🙂 She was indeed not from this time… Such a soft smile…

  3. IjonTichy says:

    Again, Lena was faster than me. Beautiful combination of text and image.

  4. So indeed Olga !
    there is something similar and inscrutable in her smile – exactly like in the smile of Lisa.

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