Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

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Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci Original

Painting NameMona Lisa
Painter NameLeonardo da Vinci
Completion Date1505
Place of CreationFlorence, Italy
Size53 x 77 cm (20.87" x 30.31")
TechniqueOil
MaterialPoplarPanel
Current LocationMusee du Louvre (Paris France)

Mona Lisa has been described as the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the worldThe prominent reasons for its fame varies from its well-known renaissance creator Leonardo da Vinci, his then-new technique called Sfumato developed by the same artist and the most prominent reason of all being the mystery of depicted woman’s smile.

Who Painted Mona Lisa

Renowned as a genius in the world, who made many unbelievable inventions, Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa using his self-invented Sfumato technique, one of the four canonical painting modes of the renaissance. His other known creations are The Last Supper (a Fresco), Vitruvian Man (a drawing) and Virgin of the Rocks.

Know more about him here.

Mona Lisa Analysis

Mona Lisa is a portrait painting depicting a wife of an Italian Silk Merchant. Leonardo has tried to give the whole portrait a feel-good appeal contrasting the melancholy environment artists of the time created in a portrait. Prominent use of aforementioned Sfumato technique gives the whole picture a smoothness, which is also said to be one of the reason for the mysterious smile. She doesn’t seem to have any eyebrows and her gaze is called Ubiquitous Gaze, one which  follows you around the room (you can try it by concentrating on her eyes and moving your head around).

According to the various types of portrait, the painting is a Kit Cat Portrait, which includes both hands inside the frame of a half-length portrait. The background is a landscape with water streams flowing through mountains. Portraits with landscapes and other backgrounds was a new trend at the time. On both sides, bottom parts of pillars are visible. It is said that the invaluable Mona Lisa painting was cut 8 cm on both sides, which caused both of the pillars (which served as framing object for the composition) to be gone from the main painting.

Real Model of Mona Lisa

Lisa del Giocondo (born as Lisa Gherardini), a wife of a wealthy merchant Francesco del Giocondo, is believed to be the real model of the Mona Lisa Painting. Mona or Monna, a short term for Madonna, means ‘My Lady’ in Italian. Her first name with affix of Mona creates the well-known title Mona Lisa. Due to her name, other name of Mona Lisa painting is La Gioconda (literally translating as ‘The Joyous’).

Model of Mona Lisa is said to be born in 1479 in Florence to Antonmaria Gherardini and his wife, Lucrezia and married to the merchant a much older person than her. Giorgio Vasari, a known Renaissance period painter and said to be the first art historian after writing a very important book called, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, he confirms the identity of Mona Lisa in the same book by saying “For Francesco del Giocondo Leonardo undertook to execute the portrait of his wife, Mona Lisa.”

The model didn’t live to see the world wide fame of the portrait or the smile, nor did any of her contemparory lives as the painting became a phenomena after her mysterious smile came into consideration, centuries after Lisa del Giocondo died.

The Mona Lisa Smile

The mysterious smile is the prominent reason of the fame and value the Mona Lisa painting has gained. The enigmatic smile is said to be an optical illusion achieved by artist with the help of Sfumato technique and 40 extremely thin layers of glaze smeared by fingers. A US scientist also claims that the enigmatic features is thanks to the tendency of the smile to disappear when looked directly.

Though, to date, there have been many experiments, studies, speculations, theories, and thesises, yet not a single interpretation has been accepted widely. Even a computer based scientific testing to determine the emotions of the face hasn’t been able to impact much, even after resulting in 83% happiness on her face.

Giorgio Vasari wrote in his book The Lives… about the smile:

‘…while he was painting Mona Lisa, who was a very beautiful woman, he employed singers and musicians or jesters to keep her full of merriment and so chase away the melancholy that painters usually give to portraits. As a result, in this painting of Leonardo’s there was a smile so pleasing that it seemed divine rather than human; and those who saw it were amazed to find that it was as alive as the original.’

Researching about the same smile, a French artist, Luc Maspero, on 23rd June, 1852 killed himself by jumping off from the fourth floor of a hotel in Paris. In his suicidal note, he said: “For years I have grappled desperately with her smile. I prefer to die.” 

Maybe Mona Lisa smile is here to stay for a very long time before people start losing interest.

Other Mona Lisa Speculations and Theories

These are the known speculations circulating around Mona Lisa painting:

Theft and Vandalism of Mona Lisa

The theft of Mona Lisa in 1911, basically raised the popularity of the painting to a legendary level. It was stolen by an Italian thief, Vincenzo Perguggio on 21 August, 1911. French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and subsequently his friend Pablo Picasso were brought into the questioning for the theft of the painting, but were released afterwards. The painting was recovered two years later in 1913.

There had been multiple attempts of vandalism in Mona Lisa’s case. Though, the most notable is a stone-attack which left the painting damaged on the lower right part of the painting, around the left elbow of Mona Lisa which is visible in the picture above. Similar vandalism has happened to other known art pieces, too.

 

After 500 years of its making, the Mona Lisa stands as the most known painting of the world. In 1962, the painting’s price calculated for insurance was around $100 million (which is a world record for highest insurance valuation for a painting), translates around $780 million in 2015 considering price inflation. That’s far higher than the world’s most expensive painting sold to date.

Yet, prices don’t matter as much as the legacy and influence of the painting. Because that generates far more valuable things than money in long run.

Important Links:

Mona Lisa in Louvre

Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives…

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