Quotation by Walter Pater

The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the waters is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years man had come to desire.... She [Leonardo's Mona Lisa] is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern thought has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life. Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea.
Walter Pater (1839–1894), British writer, educator. originally published in Fortnightly Review (Nov. 1869). "Notes on Leonardo da Vinci," pp. 118-19, repr. As "Leonardo da Vinci," in Studies in the History of the Renaissance, Macmillan (1873).
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