This is the story behind the Mona Lisa.
This is how it all began.
On a tranquil Sunday morning, a man of later years sits sipping coffee in a café beside the river in the city of Florence.
In the blink of an eye, a young woman scuttles by on her way to mass at the Santissima Annunziata Monastery in the heart of the city.
The two are acquainted but the acknowledgement is barely noticeable.
This is a moment captured in time and to be determined for history.
The man has known the young woman since she was fifteen when she was married to a local prosperous silk merchant almost twice her age.
The man about whom I speak is a reputable artist in the age of the renaissance. His patron is a member of the Medici family who are influential in Florence and across the Tuscany region.
The marriage of the pair was arranged and notarised by the father of the artist who lives within stepping distance of the home of the silk merchant and who regularly did business with him.
It is not surprising therefore that the artist would have regularly encountered the young woman on visits to see his father.
The artist is deeply in love with this young woman but he is respectful that she is another man’s wife and at twenty four years of age already the mother of five young children.
Contrary to public belief, it is not the husband of the young woman who commissions the painting but time itself which compels the artist to paint her.
And so the story has begun.
The unassuming, well-dressed and fashionable young woman regularly attends the studio of the artist for sittings over a three year period.
The young woman truly enchanted the artist for a lifetime.
There was something about her that compelled him to paint her with absolute perfection and in a style that was both original and unique.
The concept was to capture rather more than just the subject who sat before him.
From the beginning, the man knew that it would be a lifetime work to complete and it would be one painting from which he would not be parted.
The portrait was so much more than a painting. It was a statement of humanity and of an artistic style.
It was a legacy.
What is more is that the final image would bear no resemblance at all to the real Mona Lisa who lay behind it.
The world would have to wait until the beginning of the second decade of the twenty first century before this realization would dawn.
The man in my story is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci.
The young woman is Mona Lisa Gherardini who married Francesco Gioconda.
This Sunday morning, I experienced the same phenomena as the man of later years.
I sat at a riverside café sipping coffee in the heart of a touristic city.
I am not in Florence. Or Italy.
A young woman, smartly and fashionably dressed, scuttles by on her way to Sunday mass.
We are acquainted.
Another day. Another time.
I just wanted to tell you that story before I finish.