Mona Lisa is a 16th century painting made from oil and popular wood. Due to the painting’s mystique and technical mystery, it is one of the world’s most famous paintings. Mona Lisa also known as La Joconde or La Giocondo was made by a “Renaissance Man”, an Italian artist known as Leonardo da Vinci (Sassoon, 2002).The painting was later bought by the France King at that time King Francois. Mona Lisa presently hangs in the museum in ‘Musee de Louvre, Paris’ and is currently a French Government property. Many theories have been brought up regarding the woman sitting on the painting and the painting itself. The painting has been reproduced and can be found at almost every museum.
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Leonardo da Vinci started painting Mona Lisa in 1503.According to Vasari Leonardo fist took four years to make the painting after which he set it aside. He thereafter moved to France to paint at Clos Luc é upon King Francoise request. Where he resumed working on the Mona Lisa. It took Leonardo three more years to complete the painting. The painting is said to have been commissioned by Francesco Del Giocondo, a wealthy silk merchant and his wife Lisa. In spite of the continuous debate, many people believe that the woman in the painting is Lisa del Giocondo. The couple requested the painting at the birth of their second child since they wanted it for their home (Van Dyke, 2008). A contrasting theory suggests Da Vinci did not paint a picture of a woman but his own portrait in feminine clothing.
Mona Lisa painting shows a woman whose facial expression is enigmatic. The half-length portrait shows a woman who is gazing at the viewer with a smile. The smile has raised a lot of questions with many people arguing that the smile has a hidden mystery. Most people who had seen the portrait say that her eyes follow someone across the room if you gaze at her. The painting has been an object of continual fascination due to ambiguous expression of the woman, the half-figure composition monumentality, the atmospheric illusionism and the subtle modeling forms (Sassoon, 2002). Da Vinci used a rare design of a pyramid to place Mona Lisa calmly and simply in the painting’s space. On the front corner of the pyramid, he placed the form of her folded hands. Lighting was well used as her neck, breast and face glow with similar light as the one that models her hands. Da Vinci used the formula used for ‘the image of seated Madonna’ that was popular at that time to create the seated female figure. He used a modification of this formula whereby he created a distance between the observer and the seated woman through visual impression.
Mona Lisa and the viewer are divided using the armrest of the chair. Mona Lisa shows a reserved posture as she sits markedly upright her arms folded across the chest. She welcomes a silent communication to the observer through her gaze which is constantly fixed to the viewer. The viewer is greatly attracted to Mona Lisa’s face by the brightly lit face that is framed practically by darker elements of the veil, hair and the shadows. Da Vinci created Mona Lisa in such a way that her composition will evoke an ambiguous effect to the observer. The painting shows a divine creature with a lot of mystery (Farago, 1999). The observer is attracted to her but her divinity and mystery creates a distance. The painting depicts no kind of dialogue between the woman and the observer.
Da Vinci through the Mona Lisa painting became the first painter to use aerial perspective to depict a sitter before an imaginary landscape in a portrait. The enigmatic and mysterious woman is seated on an open loggia as the picture portrays each side of the picture containing dark pillar bases. There is a vast landscape that seems to be receding to the icy mountains behind her. Human presence in this environment is portrayed by a distant bridge and winding paths. The woman’s clothing and hair create a series of sensuous curves through ‘sfumato’ that echo in to the rivers and the undulating imaginary varies behind her. Da Vinci is a creative painter as his calmness and style is characterized in the painting’s graceful figure, outlines, light and dark dramatic contrast and the overall feeling portrayed by Monalisa. Since Mona Lisa’s painting does not represent a real woman but an ideal woman, many people argue that it should be considered a ‘traditional portrait’ (Barolsky, 1987).Mona Lisa painting depicts harmony in painting as it connects and links nature with humanity through the faint smile. The Mona Lisa face has no visible hair neither eyelashes nor eyebrows. Research shows that during her time, facial hair was considered unsightly and most genteel women used to pluck them out. According to modern viewers the semi-abstract quality of the face is slightly added by the missing eyebrows.
One of the controversies of Mona Lisa’s painting is the Originality of the picture’s content. A large number of art historians believe that King Francois trimmed the original picture after the death of da Vinci. Some scholars dispute the theory and insist that on either side of the Mona Lisa there were columns. The female figure is said to have a duplicate copy at Dulwich picture Gallery after its trimming (Van Dyke, 2008). The painting was moved to Louvre after the French revolution. The mystique feminine figure was not very popular until mid 19th century due to Symbolist movement.
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The Mona Lisa painting was stolen in 1911 from the Musee de Louvre under the hands of the French government. Eduardo de Valfierno an employee at the Louvre was said to be the mastermind behind the crime. Eduardo was aiming to create several copies of Mona Lisa and then attempt to sell them as the original paintings later. He stole the painting after the museum was closed and hid it under his jacket while walking outside through the front door. He was later arrested while trying to sell the original Mona Lisa in Florence in 1913 when a genuine art director discovered. Although Mona Lisa’s main home was at Musee de Louvre; it has several other homes during its lifetime. Until the French Revolution it used to hang on the French royal palace’s wall. While it was on Louvre it was removed twice, once when Napoleon requested the painting to be placed on his bedroom’s walls because he liked it. The second time was during World War II when it was transported to secret hiding place among other French Government priceless works for safe keeping. It was also stolen once in 1911 making it the third time.
In conclusion, Mona Lisa was one of Da Vinci’s numerous works which is a masterpiece to marvel at to date. Mona Lisa which hangs on the walls of Musee de Louvre currently depicts a feminine mystique of a mysterious woman. Although controversies have risen over the identity of the woman on the painting and the significance of the painting, many art historians and scholars have appreciated Mona Lisa’s enormous success. People from all over the world often gaze and wonder at the mysterious and smiling painting of Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa also means “Lisa, of bare eyebrow”. The picture of Mona Lisa has also been used to grace many magazines, objects such as cups and souvenirs among others.
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