The Mona Lisa, also called the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of La Joconde. The Renaissance period in the 14th and 15th centuries profoundly impacted the history of humanity as it was the ‘rebirth’ of literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music, which led to the evolution of the field of art. A piece that stands out is the much-acclaimed work, the ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
Mona Lisa is a half portrait of an Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini. It is painted in an oil medium on a white Lombardy poplar panel. Vinci worked on the painting between the years 1503 to 1506. It has been on display in the Louvre Museum in France since 1797.
Mona Lisa is said to resemble the Virgin Mary, an ideal woman, as depicted in the times of the Renaissance. Leonardo used a view called the three-quarter view. This elucidated the subject almost facing the viewer but only partially squared up with the viewer. The ‘three-quarter view’ quickly instantly became a new standard. The subject of the painting sits upright in a modest posture on an armchair with her gaze fixed on the observer. Leonardo did not draw outlines, the ‘sfumato,’ to make her look life-like. Proof of Leonardo’s prowess in utilizing the sfumato to his advantage lies in the softly sculpted face of the Mona Lisa.
The painting depicts the sitter in front of an imaginary landscape with an aerial perspective. Leonardo is credited as the pioneer artist to do so. The curvaceous aspects of her hair and clothes are reflected in the valleys and the rivers behind the sitter. It is said that this is the way Leonardo tries to showcase the cosmic connection between humankind and nature.
It is said that though modern-day pictures of the painting do not portray the lady with visible eyelashes and eyebrows, art restorations have revealed that they have faded out due to the test of time. It also said that she was initially painted with hairpins, but they have been layered out.
The woman’s faint smile is a clever work of art as one cannot see it when viewed with direct vision but is perceived to be smiling with a peripheral vision. It is no wonder that this painting is a masterpiece.
Scientist Pascal Cotte studied the painting for over 15 years utilizing advanced photography equipment named the Lumiere Technology camera, which works based on previous infrared technology. According to Cotte, his studies have revealed the use of a spolvero transfer technique which is the first time it has been discovered to be used in a famous painting. The underlying artwork revealed an alternative version of the Mona Lisa. The subject is seated in a marginally different pose. Studies also showed the Mona Lisa with a hairpin, according to the spolvero. Fascinatingly hairpins were not the florentenian fashion at the time of the painting leading scholars to believe that the Mona Lisa is not a depiction of a real but rather that of an unreal woman.
The painting was stolen in 1911 by Vincenzo Peruggia from France to Italy because it must return to its ‘homeland,’ the artist’s birthplace. Although the burglar makes patriotic claims, had they been his true intentions, he wouldn’t have tried to make a profit by selling it and could’ve perhaps instead donated it to the Italian government.
Two years later, in 1913, it was recovered and returned to France. One might even argue that the robbery contributed to the global fame of this particular piece of work.
The Mona Lisa had a massive impact on the renaissance art movement; as mentioned earlier, the three-fourth pose was popularised mainly by the said painting. The painting was responsible for freeing the creative minds of the prevailing period of the predisposed cogitative shackles.
In the present-day world, Mona Lisa is said to be ‘the most duplicated, most parodied work of art but looking into the past. Several others have attempted to paint this beauty and portray her as a young and beautiful maiden, like Raphael and the apprentices of Leonardo da Vinci who worked at his atelier.
The Mona Lisa’s influence snuck through into novels such as William Gibson’s cyberpunk Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). Modern-day pop culture also sees the Mona Lisa reinventing herself in various iterations.
Various academicians have suggested that the Mona Lisa is in exceptional condition considering the age of the painting; however, warping of the poplar plank has been observed. This is likely due to the resistance of the plank against the original frame or the braces added to the painting by previous restorers.
Several attempts to destroy the Mona Lisa have been made with time. To negate these acts of vandalism, measures have been taken. In 1956 the glass plane protecting the painting was upgraded to a bullet-proof glass plane. Subsequently, the added protection came in handy on several occasions; in 2009, a museum visitor hurled a ceramic mug at the painting but, unfortunately for her, could not cause any damage to the painting.
Despite having been painted over 500 years ago, Leonardo Da Vinci, with his Mona Lisa, changed the art order completely. Previously created paintings lacked the soul and character of the Mona Lisa. Until this day, she remains one of the most debated, iconic works of art and manages to turn heads in awe of her beauty with her poised posture and enigmatic expression.
- Ishak, N. (2020) There’s a hidden drawing underneath the ‘Mona Lisa’ that shows she almost looked very different, All That’s Interesting. All That’s Interesting. Available at: https://allthatsinteresting.com/mona-lisa-hidden-drawing (Accessed: November 22, 2022).
- The mona lisa – by Leonardo da Vinci (no date) 10 Secrets of The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Available at: https://www.leonardodavinci.net/the-mona-lisa.jsp (Accessed: November 22, 2022).
- The mona lisa foundation (2012) The Mona Lisa Foundation. Available at: https://monalisa.org/ (Accessed: November 22, 2022).