Leonardo Da Vinci and His Famous Painting "Mona Lisa"
One of the most easily recognised and famous paintings “Mona Lisa” is on show behind bullet proof glass at the Louvre art museum in Paris, France. There have been many prints made of this famous painting and those privileged to see the original just stand in awe at its magnificence.
The “Mona Lisa” is a small painting that evokes admiration for a painter that has had no equal. An oil painting on wood that is 77cm x 53cm (30 x 20 5/8 inches) it has mesmerised art lovers throughout the ages.
Leonardo Da Vinci who painted “Mona Lisa” was not only a painter. He was also an architect, anatomist, botanist, cartographer, engineer, geologist, inventor, mathematician, musician, scientist, sculptor and writer. He was recognised as a genius and few would disagree.
For all his many and talents, Leonardo Da Vinci had an inauspicious start to life. Born to Piero Da Vinci and a peasant woman Caterina, at Vinci in Florence; he spent his early working life in Milan. He later worked in Bologna, Rome and Venice. However, he finished his life in France; being awarded a home by Francis 1.
As with “Mona Lisa” and with other forms of art; Leonardo Da Vinci’s knowledge of anatomy and science meant that he mastered realistic art form. In his paintings, he would strive to incorporate both expression and movement. He painted with great accuracy and although many tried to emulate his style, none came close in his lifetime.
Sadly there are very few of Da Vinci’s paintings and only about 20 of his notebooks that have been preserved. Although he made many sketches, many never translated into paintings. His career saw great highs but also many lows. At times he was celebrated and at other times humiliated.
What is it that even to this day fascinates so many, on seeing this painting for the first time? Some have described it as such. Gazing on “Mona Lisa” you will observea wistfulness, as with his other two great portraits of women: “Cecilia Gallarani” and “Gineverade’Benci”. “Mona Lisa” displays its wistfulness at its most enigmatic.
This famous painting presents as both alluring and aloof. Her trademark smile has given it universal acclaim.Her smile, painted with a slight opening of the lips was considered in that period to be a sign of elegance. The gentle smile pervades the whole picture and is significant in its appeal. The reason for her smile will remain a mystery, though it has been a cause for conjecture by many.
There is uncertainty about the time of day. This other mystery has been achieved by the sfumato technique with continuous interaction between light and shade.
Da Vinci himself loved this painting and kept it with him on his travels. It eventually was sold to Francois 1.
For many years there was debate about the identity of the model Da Vinci had painted in this portrait. Many have sought to solve this mystery but up until 2008 it was all conjecture and anecdotal. Finally there was an announcement made by German academics at the Heidelberg University.
Two years previously a manuscript expert Armin Schlechter discovered notes made by Agnostino Vespucci,a Florentine city official. He was an acquaintance of Leonardo Da Vinci. Notes were written in October 1503 in the margin of the book. Vespucciwrote that Da Vinci was working on three paintings at the time; including a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.
The university then released a statement in which they declared: “All doubts about the identity of the “Mona Lisa” have been eliminated”. A researcher Giuseppe Pallanti, who authored two books on the “Mona Lisa” not only was the first historian to identify the sitter as Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo but also noted that Leonardo’s father and Lisa’s family were neighbours. Mystery solved.
Leonardo Da Vinci certainly left his mark and this portrait became a symbol of the Renaissance era. “Mona Lisa” truly is a tribute to this master. The half-smile, the wistfulness.A famous painter and a famous painting indeed.
This article is the third in a series: Famous Painter: Famous Painting
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