Tag: mona lisa
Her tricky smile and timeless allure have inspired academic study and artistic emulation for more than five centuries. But the story of this perplexing portrait is even richer than it looks.
“Mona Lisa” Is Not Her Name
The painting’s subject is Lisa Gherardini, whose wealthy—and presumably adoring—husband Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned the work. This explains the less prevalent title for this painting, La Gioconda. The name Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa, as the Italians prefer) roughly translates to “My Lady Lisa.”
She’s Smaller Than You Might Think
Mona Lisa’s influence in culture is massive, but the oil-on-wood panel painting measures just 30 by 21 inches and weighs 18 pounds.
Her Eyebrows Are A Matter of Debate
Some claim the subject’s lack of eyebrows is representative of high-class fashion of the time. Others insist her AWOL eyebrows are proof that Mona Lisa is an unfinished masterpiece. But in 2007 ultra detailed digital scans of the painting revealed da Vinci had painted on eyebrows and bolder eyelashes. Both had simply faded over time or had fallen victim to years of restoration work.
She’s Broken A Lot of Hearts
The portrait was first put on public display in the Louvre in 1815, inspiring admiration, as a string of “suitors bearing flowers, poems and impassioned notes climbed the grand staircase of the Louvre to gaze into her ‘limpid and burning eyes.’”
“Mona Lisa often made men do strange things,” R. A. Scotti wrote in Vanished Smile, “There were more than one million artworks in the Louvre collection; she alone received her own mail.” The painting actually has its own mailbox at the Louvre because of all the love letters its subject receives.
Men Have Died from Loving Her
In 1852, an artist named Luc Maspero threw himself from the fourth floor of a Parisian hotel, leaving a suicide note that read: “For years I have grappled desperately with her smile. I prefer to die.” Then in 1910, one enamored fan came before her solely to shoot himself as he looked upon her.
It’s Literally Priceless
In the 1960s, the painting went on a tour where it was given an insurance valuation of $100 million. But the policy was never taken out because the premiums were more than the cost of the best security.
The Paiinting Sits in the World’s Prettish Prison
Mona Lisa gets her own room at the Louvre, one that is climate controlled to keep her in the ideal environment. Additionally, the work is encased in bulletproof glass to prevent threat and injury.
She’s Been Attacked
If you look closely at the subject’s left elbow, you might notice the damage done by Ugo Ungaza Villegas, a Bolivian who chucked a rock at the portrait in 1956. A few months before, another art attacker pitched acid at the painting, which hit the lower section. These attacks inspired the bulletproof glass, which in 2009 successfully rebuffed a souvenir mug hurled by an enraged Russian tourist who’d been denied French citizenship.
France Mourned en Masse when She Went Missing
In 1911, Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. The New York Times retroactively compared the public display of grief to that seen in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Thousands poured into the Louvre to stare in shock at the blank wall where she once hung and leave flowers, notes, and other remembrances.
Pablo Picasso Was a Suspect in the Caper
Because he’d been caught buying stolen Louvre pieces before, Picasso was brought in for questioning. But the true thief would not be caught until 1913.
Louvre employee Vincenzo Perugia was a proud Italian nationalist who smuggled the painting out under his smock because he felt it belonged to his and da Vinci’s homeland, not France. After hiding it for two years, Perugia was busted trying to sell Mona Lisa to a Florence art dealer. However, he did briefly get his wish. Upon her recovery, Mona Lisa toured Italy before returning to Paris.
Her Terun Inspired a Fashion Trend
In her book Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, journalist Dianne Hales writes, “Society women adopted the ‘La Joconde look’ [named for the painting’s French title], dusting yellow powder on their faces and necks to suggest her golden complexion and immobilizing their facial muscles to mimic her smile. In Parisian cabarets, dancers dressed as La Joconde performed a saucy can-can…. Something beyond the painting’s wild popularity had changed. The Mona Lisa had left the Louvre a work of art; she returned as a public property, the first mass art icon.”
Her Smile Doesn’t Change, but Your Mindset Does
That is-she-or-isn’t-she smile has long fascinated artists and historians. But in 2000, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Margaret Livingstone applied a scientific method to why Mona Lisa’s smile seems to shift. It’s all about where your focus is, and how your brain responds.
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519), Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of Renaissance genius.
He depicted in his drawings, with scientific precision and consummate artistry, subjects ranging from flying machines to caricatures; he also executed intricate anatomical studies of people, animals, and plants. The richness and originality of intellect expressed in his notebooks reveal one of the greatest minds of all time.
Early Life and Work: Vinci and Florence
Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary and a peasant woman. Presumably he passed his childhood with his father’s family in Vinci, where he developed an enduring interest in nature. Early sources describe his beauty, charm of manner, and precocious display of artistic talent.
In 1466 Leonardo moved to Florence, where he entered the workshop of Verrocchio and came into contact with such artists as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Lorenzo di Credi. Early in his apprenticeship he painted an angel, and perhaps portions of the landscape, in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (Uffizi). In 1472 he was registered in the painters’ guild. The culmination of Leonardo’s art during his first period in Florence is the magnificent unfinished Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi) commissioned in 1481 by the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. In this work is revealed the integration of dramatic movement and chiaroscuro that characterizes the master’s mature style.
Middle Life and Mature Work: Milan and Florence
Leonardo went to Milan c.1482 and remained at the court of Ludovico Sforza for 16 years. In this time he composed the greater part of his Trattato della pittura and the extensive notebooks that demonstrate the marvelous versatility and penetration of his genius. As court artist he also organized elaborate festivals. Severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to problems of town planning, an interest which was revived during his last years in France. Many drawings of plans and elevations for domed churches reflect a concern with architectural problems that must have been stimulated by contact with Bramante during these years. He worked c.1488 on a model for the tambour and dome of the cathedral at Milan. In 1490 he was employed with Francesco di Giorgio as consulting engineer on the restoration of the cathedral at Pavia and later on the cathedral at Piacenza.
In 1483, Leonardo, with his pupil Ambrogio de Predis, was commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks. Two versions of the painting exist—one in the Louvre (1483–c.1486), another in the National Gallery, London (1483–1508). Leonardo’s fresco of the Last Supper (Milan) was begun c.1495 and completed by 1498. This work is now badly damaged. Leonardo’s own experiments with the fresco medium account in part for its disintegration, which was already noticed by 1517. Deterioration and repeated restorations had obliterated details and individual figures.
Nonetheless, the composition and general disposition of the figures reveal a power of invention and a sublimity of spiritual content that mark the painting among the world’s masterpieces. In 1978 a major (and controversial) restoration was begun, and in 1994–95 protective air-filtration and climate-control equipment were installed. The restoration was completed in 1999, leaving the fresco brightened considerably with details clarified, but also revealing the extensive loss of the original painting.
While at Ludovico’s court Leonardo also worked on an equestrian monument to the duke’s father, Francesco Sforza. The work was never cast, and the model, admired by his contemporaries, perished during the French invasion of 1499. In 1511 he undertook a similar work with the commission of an equestrian monument for Gian Giacomo Trivulzio. This work was also never completed and known only through drawings related to the project. After the fall (1499) of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo left Milan and, following brief sojourns in Mantua and Venice, returned to Florence in 1500.
Back in Florence Leonardo engaged in much theoretical work in mathematics and pursued his anatomical studies at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In 1502 he entered the service of Cesare Borgia as a military engineer. His engagement took him to central Italy to study swamp reclamation projects in Piombino and to tour the cities of Romagna. At Urbino he met Niccolò Machiavelli, who later became a close friend.
By 1503 he was back in Florence, where he was commissioned to execute the fresco of the battle of Anghiari. This work, like its companion piece assigned to Michelangelo, was never completed, and the cartoons were subsequently destroyed. The work exerted enormous influence on later artists, however, and some impression of the original may be had from anonymous copies in the Uffizi and Casa Horne (Florence), from an engraving of 1558 of Lorenzo Zacchia, and from a drawing by Rubens (Louvre). From about this time dates the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre), the portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant.
In 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan, engaged by Charles d’Amboise in the name of the French king, Louis XII. Here he again served as architect and engineer. Gifted with a gargantuan curiosity concerning the physical world, he continued his scientific investigations, concerning himself with problems of geology, botany, hydraulics, and mechanics. In 1510–11 his interest in anatomy quickened considerably. At the same time he was active as painter and sculptor, had many pupils, and profoundly influenced the Milanese painters. A painting generally ascribed to this period is the St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre), a work that exemplifies Leonardo’s handling of sfumato—misty, subtle transitions in tone.
Late Life and Work: Rome and France
In 1513 Leonardo went to Rome, attracted by the patronage of the newly elected Medici pope, Leo X, and his brother Giuliano. Here he found the field dominated by Michelangelo and Raphael. The aging master was assigned to various architectural and engineering projects at the Vatican and received commissions for several paintings. It was perhaps in this period that he executed the enigmatic painting of the young St. John the Baptist (Louvre). Giuliano de’ Medici left Rome in 1515 and died at Fiesole in the following year.
It is conjectured that Leonardo left with him, attached to his household, and that soon afterward he accepted an invitation of Francis I of France to settle at the castle of Cloux, near Amboise. Here the old master was left entirely free to pursue his own researches until his death. Although there is no certain record of his last years, he seems to have been active with festival decoration and to have been interested in a canal project. Notes and drawings ascribed to this late period show his continued interest in natural philosophy and experimental science.
The enigmatic smile remains a mystery, but French scientists say they have cracked a few secrets of Lisa “Mona”. French researchers studied seven Louvre Museum Leonardo da Vinci paintings, including Lisa “Mona” to analyze the use of control successive ultra-thin layers of paint and varnish – a technique that gave his works their quality of dream.
The specialists of the Centre for Research and Restoration of Museums of France noted that da Vinci painted up to 30 layers of paint on its work to meet its standards of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40 micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair, the researcher Philip Walter, said Friday.
The technique, called “sfumato”, has given da Vinci and the blurred outlines of a quality and create an illusion of depth and shadow. His use of the technique is well known, but a scientific study on this subject has been limited because the tests often required samples of the paint.
French researchers have used a noninvasive technique called X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to study the layers of paint and chemical composition.
They brought their tool specially developed high-tech in the museum where it was closed and studied the portraits of faces, which are emblematic of sfumato. The project was developed in collaboration with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble.
The tool is so precise that “now we can discover the mixture of pigments used by the artist for each coat of paint,” said Walter The Associated Press. “And it’s very, very important for the understanding of technology.”
The analysis also shows pictures of different da Vinci is constantly striving for new methods, Walter said. In the Lisa “Mona” Da Vinci manganese oxide in its nuances. In others, he used copper. Often, they use glazes, but not always.