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Mona Lisa

By codyjones3 Feb 13, 2014 1200 Words
Throughout history, there have been certain works of art that seem to never get old. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is definitely one of them. I chose to explore this work of art because I never quite understood why it is so relevant. Although the “Mona Lisa” is a beautiful piece of art, its level of popularity has always intrigued me. It is one of the most well known paintings in the world, but many do not even consider it to be Leonardo Da Vinci's best work. I believe the popularity of the painting derives from the history and mystery behind it. Leonardo da Vinci was a leading artist during the renaissance period and some of his work is still displayed and beloved today. Along with his talents with the paintbrush, da Vinci was also an architect, inventor, and a scientist. He was born on April 15, 1452 in the Italian city of Vinci. Growing up, he did not have much of a formal education. When he was about 14 or 15 he realized his talents in art and became apprentice to Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence, a sculptor and painter. Da Vinci later became an independent master in 1478 and began working on his own projects. (Zimmerman) Da Vinci was a Renaissance man, as his interest in so many areas would suggest. “He was the founding father of what is called the High Renaissance style and exercised an enormous influence on contemporary and later artists.” (Farago 40) He was especially interested in scientific law and nature, and during the 1490’s, he began chronicling his thoughts about architecture, mechanics, and human anatomy. Because he was so involved in numerous areas, da Vinci became notorious for not finishing artwork. (Zimmerman) While the “Mona Lisa” may be da Vinci’s most popular work, many do not consider it his best. One of the pieces he is most known for is “Last Supper.” This painting recreates the religious scene of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper. The piece was done between 1495 and 1498 and is a whopping 15 feet tall by 29 feet wide. (Esaak)

Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous piece, by far, was the “Mona Lisa.” Da Vinci was in Florence at the time, and was hired to do the piece by a local man named Francesco Del Giocondo. The piece was to be a half body commission of Giocondo’s wife, Lisa Gherardini, and it was to celebrate their new home’s completion and the birth of their second son. Da Vinci worked on the painting between 1504 and 1519. Like many of da Vinci’s works, the piece was never completely finished and was never delivered to Giocondo and his wife. (“Facts & History of the Painting.")

Da Vinci was an innovator and was willing to try new techniques when he worked. “Mona Lisa” was an oil painting with a cottonwood panel as the surface, which was very unusual because most oil paintings were made on canvas. The “Mona Lisa” has also survived for six centuries without having to be restored, which can be credited to the medium used for the painting. ("Facts & History of the Painting.")

The “Mona Lisa” is by far the most famous painting in the world. Every year, nearly 6 million people visit the Louvre Museum and nearly all of them stop to admire the painting. ("Interesting Mona Lisa Facts.") But why is the “Mona Lisa” such a popular painting?

From an artistic aspect, the painting stood out because of da Vinci’s incredible attention to detail when painting her hands, eyes, and lips. “Da Vinci used a shadowing technique at the corners of her lips as well as the corners of her eyes which give her an extremely lifelike appearance and look of amusement.” ("Facts & History of the Painting.") Da Vinci was able to capture so many emotions in his painting of her face that many people claim to see different facial expressions as they look at her from different angles. “Da Vinci also created a background with aerial views and a beautiful landscape, but muted from the vibrant lightness of the subject’s face and hands. The technique Da Vinci used in executing the painting left behind no visible brush marks, something that was said to make any master painter lose heart. It is truly a masterpiece.” ("Facts & History of the Painting.")

Part of the appeal of the painting is the mystery that surrounds it. Since it was created, there have been questions about the “Mona Lisa” that have peaked the interest of all those who see it. One of which regards the identity of the woman in the picture. Evidence suggests that the portrait is of Lisa Gherardini, and was to be a gift from her husband, Francesco Del Giocondo. The discovery that the original name of the painting is actually “Monna Lisa” (a common Italian shortening of Madonna, meaning “my lady”), but later became known as “Mona Lisa” because of a spelling error, suggests that this theory is true. ("Interesting Mona Lisa Facts.") Though it is almost unanimously accepted that the woman is in fact Lisa Gherardini, many have also speculated that the painting may be a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in drag.

There have also been questions regarding the woman’s lack of eyebrows or eyelashes in the painting. One theory is that while attempting to restore the painting, there was a mistake made and the eyebrows were removed accidently. Others believe that because da Vinci was known to procrastinate, he simply just never got around to finishing the painting and adding eyebrows to her. ("Interesting Mona Lisa Facts.") The painting is so popular that it has been subject to numerous attempts of theft and vandalism throughout the years. In 1911, an employee of the Louvre Museum named Vincenzo Peruggia smuggled the painting out of the museum when he was left alone in the room with it. Peruggia claimed the painting was the rightful property of Italy and kept it inside his apartment until he was caught trying to sell it to a gallery in Florence in 1913. Later, in 1956, a small patch of paint near her elbow was damaged when a man named Ugo Ungaza threw a rock at it. ("Interesting Mona Lisa Facts.")

Today, the “Mona Lisa” is considered priceless and is not insured. It is back in the Louvre Museum in France and is protected in a seven million dollar, climate-controlled room and is placed behind bulletproof glass. ("Interesting Mona Lisa Facts.") Whether because of the history behind the painting, the mystery surrounding its story, or the genius painter that was Leonardo da Vinci, the “Mona Lisa” is undoubtedly one of the most iconic paintings in the world.

Works Cited

Esaak, Shelley. "Last Supper, 1495-98." About.com Art History. About.com, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

Farago, Claire J. Biography and Early Art Criticism of Leonardo Da Vinci. New York: Garland, 1999. Print.

"Interesting Mona Lisa Facts." Free Press Release Distribution Service. PRLOG, 2 Jan. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

"Facts & History of the Painting." Totally History Mona Lisa Comments. Totally History, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

"The Mysterious Mona Lisa." The Mysterious Mona Lisa. FunTrivia, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

Zimmerman, Kim Ann. "Leonardo Da Vinci: Facts & Biography." LiveScience.com. Live Science, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

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