An uneasy relationship between two countries, France and the United States; art; snipers; Secret Service; storms. If this sounds like a new Da Vinci Code, there is a connection. Margaret Leslie Davis' fascinating book is about a Da Vinci painting. But, Mona Lisa in Camelot: How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci's Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation, is a nonfiction book, just as riveting as some suspense novels.
In 1963, almost two million people in Washington, D.C. and New York City were able to see the Mona Lisa. Most of them probably had little idea what an important role First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy played in bringing the masterpiece to the United States. However, she deftly worked with France's Cultural Minister, André Malraux, and National Gallery Director John Walker to overcome all obstacles. Walker opposed the loan from France. Malraux overrode the objections of the newspapers and people of France. Together, they brought the first lady of art to the people of this country.
Davis skillfully tells of the story of the Kennedys' love of culture, and their determination to make art more important in the U.S. She said, Jackie "shared with President Kennedy the belief that art was a great unifying and humanizing experience. To her mind, art was not a distraction in the life of the nation, but rather a testament to its very quality of civilization." The First Lady admired French culture, and that love enabled her to skillfully manipulate a loan of Mona Lisa from the French.
Mona Lisa in Camelot reads as easily as any suspense novel, and it is just as fascinating. Davis combines politics, art history, and the story of the Kennedy White House, in an intriguing book. The story includes amusing anecdotes, as well as little-known facts. There's still time to pick up a gift for anyone who appreciates outstanding nonfiction, or a cultural history. Davis' Mona Lisa in Camelot might be a thoughtful present for that reader.
Margaret Leslie Davis' website is www.margaretlesliedavis.com
Mona Lisa in Camelot: How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci's Masterpiece charmed and Captivated a Nation by Margaret Leslie Davis. De Capo Press, ©2008. ISBN 9780738211039 (hardcover), 272p.