Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—In a serious test of his talent, Mohammed Rustom, a Syrian sculptor based in Lebanon, succeeded in transforming Da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa into a three-dimensional work of art. The carving, which took him four months, is a testament to Rustom’s determination to overcome technical challenges.
His statue, which has been on public display for a number of months, is 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and 1 foot 9 inches (55 centimeters) wide. The sculpture was the first of its kind to be attempted in Lebanon, and the sculptor hopes to attract interest of art lovers.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Rustom said that he “is keen on carving ancient architecture onto facades, in a blend of ancient and modern, because when the stone begins to speak, I see my life from a different perspective.”
Rustam’s sculptures do not stop at the Mona Lisa. He also seeks to enter the world of architecture by carving Islamic capitals, Assyrian arches and Byzantine columns.
Walking around the Syrian sculptor’s work, one arrives at his latest piece—a large coin with a Syrian pound on one side and a Lebanese pound on the other. He considers it to be the first and the largest stone carving of a coin with every detail and inscription. He hopes to enter the Guinness Book of World Records with it.
“I spent three months carving it. I was trying to suggest a sense of brotherhood: we are two sides of the same coin. No matter what our names are changed to, we are one country and we are the people of one civilization,” Rustam said of his sculpture, which has now been placed on one of the main streets in Tyre, south Lebanon.
Rustam gave another of his projects, a large statue of rosary beads, to the mayor of Tyre. It is to be placed on the city’s southern corniche, where it will be an appropriate landmark since it is made entirely of natural stone. With a total of 33 separate beads, the artistic installment weighs approximately five tons and is about 40 feet (12 meters) long. At its base are three statues, including one of a cedar tree, the national symbol of Lebanon.
The sculptor was enticed by the idea, which came to him while he was working on a rock carving that contained religious symbols. He wanted to translate what he saw as recognition of Lebanon—representing co-existence between Muslims and Christians. It then became a cultural and national idea.
The president of the Union of Municipalities in Tyre, Abdul Mohsen Husseini, described Rustam’s piece as a beautiful initiative, stressing that it has become a unique artistic milestone at the municipal park.
With his hammer and chisel, Rustam produces masterpieces from rock. As a natural artist, he has been influenced by the art of stone sculptures since his childhood. His body of work—from statues of women to carvings of buildings and ancient architecture—shows the vitality of his experience.
Rustam has carved dozens of rock sculptures for the entrances of palaces, villas and gardens. “I carve onto the walls of houses, to recreate the spirit of Arab civilizations. I’m prepared to produce sculptures and carvings that are inspired by any civilization, if asked to do so,” he explained.
But today, he has his own ideas for the future. “I will work to carve a castle out of stone—black basalt—and plan to engrave poetry onto it. I am also planning to create the largest stone chessboard in the world, and I hope to be granted permission to restore the Egyptian pyramids.”