The secret behind the smile is revealed.
Three things have led the young nobleman Bougainville to his great, tragic love: war (he went to fight the Spanish for his king), art (his army visited Florence to do some light shopping) and the humble housefly (which he was chasing through Leonardo da Vinci's workshop when he stumbled upon her, leaning on an easel hidden behind a curtain).
He is plunged into an amour fou for his Mona Lisa - too beautiful, too real to have been imagined, however great the artist - and his attempts to find her prove wild, violent, even fatal.
Lernet-Holenia's novella is the brilliantly funny story of how art inspires a tremendous love - pure, for all its madness - and is inspired by it in turn.
Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1897-1976) was a popular, prolific and provocative Austrian novelist, screenwriter and poet. His work was greatly admired by his peers, but usually loathed by the authorities - he was among the writers blacklisted by the Nazis. After the war, he collected all the most important national literary awards going, including the Great Austrian State Prize, and was elected the President of Austrian PEN in 1969.