The Mona Lisa Smile Historical Review

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Mona Lisa smile interpretation has been a prime debate among art historians and scholars for centuries, since DaVinci first put his painting to canvas so many years ago. Theories abound and tests have been run, but still today people wonder why it was that such a simple curl of the lips could be so expressive.
The Original Theories

For many years, when asked “Why is Mona Lisa smiling?” many art historians were given to offering their own outlandish theories on the smile. It appears differently to everyone that views it and for that reason has been the source of much speculation. Largely, it was thought early on that her smile was supposed to be cloying, to draw the observer closer into observing her and her surroundings. Whether she was happy or just being ironic was always a source of much argument though, as outlined in the original biography by Vasari and his description of the smile.
Freud and the Mother Theory

Always prone to his own augmented theories on the nature of art and literature, Sigmund Freud proffered that the smile was a representation of Leonardo’s attraction to his mother. For him, “Why is the Mona Lisa smiling” was less a question and more of a psychological twist on things. Using his own Oedipus Complex theory, Freud built on the theory that the painting might be a representation of DaVinci or his mother instead of Lisa Gherardini.

This theory is further expanded in more recent books that suggest the painting might be a portrait of his mother and that the smile might be a knowing smile of sorts. Others have postulated that the smile might be similarly secretive regarding an affair DaVinci might have had with another of his possible patrons.
The Smile Itself

To best understand why everyone is so intrigued by this enigmatic smile, it’s important to know that the smile is incredibly unique as a visual stimulus. The nature of the smile, painted in Sfumato, forces the eye to adjust to it according to how you perceive it. Different angles, different people, and different focal points create different effects when viewing the painting. An Art Professor from Harvard, Margaret Livingstone outlined her theory that the smile can only be seen from a peripheral angle, usually when staring into the eyes. Other scientists, such as Christopher Tyler from Smith-Kettlewell Institute theorized that the smile is actually an example of random noise in human vision.

Regardless of the nature of the smile, it definitely appears different to different people and has a habit of extending or retracting according to who views her. The carefully painted corners of her mouth blend so seamlessly upward as to combine with the rest of her face and facilitate a perfect example of Sfumato and not just the blurring of the lines in the painting, but of the lines in our perception.
So, Why Was the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Recent science has taken many leaps and with it the development of some incredibly apt emotional recognition software has helped scientists begin the process of analyzing art’s great mysteries, including the Mona Lisa’s smile. In 2005, a team of scientists from the University of Amsterdam tried their hands at discerning exactly what the Mona Lisa’s smile means. Their software eventually came up with results that described the smile as 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry, and less than 1% neutral. According to their research, the smile is definitely a meaningful expression and most likely is a happy one.

The science is of course new though and offers only the most cursory of examples as to the actual make up of the world’s most famous piece of art and the question of why the Mona Lisa is smiling.

Why is the Mona Lisa so Famous?

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The Artist and Historical Value

When you boil down everything about the painting to those first few days the canvas spent in a workshop in Italy, there is still Leoanrdo Da Vinci. More than anything else, his identity as the artist has helped build up the painting to the kind of international cultdom it now holds. He is a symbol of all things Renaissance – a scientist, artist, and thinker beyond that of anyone else that came before him. For that reason, his works hold much more mystique than those of any other artist.

The mystery of Leonardo’s life as written by Vasari and his quirky methods of sleeping, learning, and even writing (backwards) has earned the painting much of its mystique. Along with that are the ambiguous possibilities of its source. No one is wholly sure who the model was for the Mona Lisa.

Vasari wrote that it was Lisa Gherardini and many people support this theory. However DaVinci mentions another woman, Giuliano de’ Medici and records in France refer to her as a courtesan. Other theories have mentioned that she actually be a he, Leonardo himself in this case. The art world largely agrees that Gherardini is the model, but the mystique remains.

Early on, Leonardo carried his painting with him as well, everywhere he went. It became a symbol of his talents and was used to acquire further commissions in France. A lot of people saw it and a lot more people were intrigued to see it. But, the early popularity of the painting was well deserved as the Mona Lisa was a revolution in the painting of portraits. He was the first to paint a portrait from the waist up, and used the single vanishing point in the background for the first time. His technique and ability to bring a woman to life on canvas was inspirational to painters everywhere.

After 1530 when Franics I, King of France, acquired the Mona Lisa, it became a permanent possession of royalty for centuries. Dukes from England tried to purchase, Emperors lifted it into their bed chambers, and Kings held it in the highest regard as a prized possession in their palaces. Whenever royalty fawns over something, the rest of the world is sure to follow.
Public Accessibility

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When the painting was removed to the Louvre in 1804 – after Napoleon’s exile – the time was ripe for people to fall in love with Leonardo’s work again. The Romantic era of painting was upon France and with it a love affair with Leonardo’s masterpieces, especially upon realizing the importance of the Mona Lisa. Thousands of copies were painted and before long the world was swarming with visions and variations of the famous painting as artists attempted to emulate their hero, Leonardo. Because she was so famous, she became even more famous, exalted if only because she was so well known.

The Theft

When the painting was stolen in 1911 from the Louvre by an Italian employee there, the outcry was immediate and the imagery pasted in every newspaper and on every street corner ensured that everyone in the world would know the face of the Mona Lisa, famous as she then was.

It was after the failure to recover the painting that her image began appearing in much less respectful manners. Throughout France, her image began appearing in films, on vehicles and soon in farcical roles in popular culture. The public idolized the image and yet mocked the saturation of her face in the media. Regardless the world soon knew the true value of the Mona Lisa.


Why is the Mona Lisa So Popular Today?

When she was finally returned in 1913, the actual acquisition of the painting made for an even more astounding display. The painting was displayed throughout Italy in a year long tour. Parades were held, songs were written, and entire books were penned in her honor. The great masterpiece was found and the world rejoiced.

Soon afterward, in response to the oversaturation of her image and the worldwide recognition of her face, the up and coming arts movements began taking notice and born were the images of Marcel Duchamp in “L.H.O.O.Q”, Andy Warhol’s colored negatives, and Nat King Cole’s songs. Her image became synonymous with the barrier between high and low art and as the progression of modernist art movements began breaking down that barrier, she became instant fodder for sculptures of her head, alterations of her face, and stories on her origins.

With that instant recognition comes all of the criticism of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that has created a chasm in her popularity. The question of whether she is famous for just being famous has long been argued and even today rages on in many scholarly circles.

Who Painted the Mona Lisa : A Short Mona Lisa History

In 1502 Leonardo DaVinci began painting what would become his defining masterwork, the Mona Lisa. Completed over the course of the four years to follow, the Mona Lisa has long been a symbol of the Renaissance and the artistic mastery of a man who did so many things in his life. Many have pondered the question – why did Leonardo paint Mona Lisa? The most commonly held belief is that it was a commission to paint the wife of a nobleman he was acquainted with. Others have held the belief that he may have painted himself as a woman or that the woman pictured was someone else, or possibly a lover.


How Old was Mona Lisa?

According to Giorgio Vasari, the Italian biographer of painters in the 16th century, the sitter for DaVinci’s painting was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant in Florence. As his third wife, Lisa Gherardini, was born in 1479 and raised in Tuscany until marrying del Giocondo in 1495. That would have made Gherardini 24 years old when Leonardo started on the Mona Lisa, her husband much older than her.

In recent years there has been a lot more research on the identity and life of Gherardini and her role in DaVinci’s life and painting. It has been said that DaVinci’s father was friends with del Giocondo and that he most likely commissioned the painting himself for his friends. During the course of their marriage, Gherardini and her husband had five children and she died in 1542 at the age of 63.

Further study and research in the last two years has revealed that Gherardini’s second son was born in the same year as the Mona Lisa was started, meaning it likely would have been a commission commemorating that birth. This also lends to the theories about the veil Mona Lisa wears in the painting which many have pointed to as a common sign of pregnancy at that time.
Other Theories and Mona Lisa Facts

The only problem with blindly believing Vasari’s account of the painting is that by the time he was writing his biographies, the painting was in France, before he was even born actually. This has prompted many people to theorize other possibilities for the origins of the sitter in DaVinci’s painting.

There are quotes from DaVinci regarding a portrait of a Florentine Lady, which might also be one of two other portraits of women painted by him. There have been other comments that caused confusion, at one time even linking the painting to Francesco del Giocondo himself.

However, the most famous and controversial theory of alternate sources for the model are that the painting is a self-portrait. Comparing the self portraits of Leonardo that he drew in his life time with the facial points and features of the Mona Lisa, recent computer analysis has shown nearly flawless comparisons.

Some people state that this is likely because DaVinci was most familiar with his own face and that both pieces of art were drawn by him. However, there have also been theories that the self-portrait described is actually a picture of DaVinci’s mother, explaining the similarities between the two. Another famous painting of DaVinci’s, that of St. John the Baptist, contains many of the same features of the Mona Lisa and shows many similarities to DaVinci’s facial features. Whatever the correct answer it is clear that for Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa was a labor of love.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci is not only one of the most important paintings ever created, it was one of the most important to Leonardo himself, a work he spent more than four years on and carried with him everywhere he went for the remainder of his life. The Importance of the Mona Lisa to Leonardo has caused great deals of speculation as to why he might have painted it and what the painting might be depicting.

When was the Mona Lisa Painted and Why?

The original Mona Lisa was painted in 1503 by Leonardo Da Vinci in his home in Italy. Vasari, the famous Italian biographer, wrote that it was a commission for Francesco del Giacondo and his wife Lisa Ghirardi, the model. Ghirardi would have been a 24 year old recent bride about to give birth to her second child at the time. Other scholars have made connections between Leonardo’s father and Francesco as friends and that Leonardo’s father might have commissioned the painting himself as a gift.

However, none of these facts are sufficient to explaining why the painting held so much value to Leonardo during his life. There are numerous theories recently postulated (in the last 100 years or so) that hope to tackle this question and make sense of the life and work of the world’s most important artist.

Other Models in the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

With the outstanding theory being that the Mona Lisa is a painting of Lisa Ghirardi and other theories pointing to the possibility that it could be either Constanza d’Avalos or Isabella of Aragon, Duchess of Milan, the question of its importance is still not answered. While the revolutionary style and expression in the portrait have enthralled the art world since it was painted, it doesn’t explain DaVinci’s attachment.

A Self Portrait or His Mother?

There are further theories that the painting might have been a self-portrait, supported by the similarity of the painting to other self-portraits of DaVinci he painted and with other paintings that carry similar facial features. Another theory still postulates that he may have instilled some of the features of his mother in all of these paintings, making the Mona Lisa a portrait not of Lisa Ghirardi in detail, but of his mother Caterina.

The Importance of his Life’s Work

Throughout his life, Leonardo was intrigued by almost everything under the sun. He had a habit of infusing his interests into numerous works, adding touches of his obsession with weather and topography into the Mona Lisa in the background to show humanity’s culmination with nature. For that reason, his artwork was incredibly important to him, not only as art but as an expression of his life’s work. With such a small painting, and four years of work put into it, it could just be that he kept it with him as a representative of that.

With so much time and energy put into his masterpiece, Leonardo may have simply been wary to part way s with it, unable to find a suitable buyer, or lost the commission after the painting was completed. Whatever reason he so loved it though, Mona Lisa by da Vinci is full of the kinds of mystery and importance that has endured for more than 500 years.

The Mona Lisa Smile Historical Review

Mona Lisa smile interpretation has been a prime debate among art historians and scholars for centuries, since DaVinci first put his painting to canvas so many years ago. Theories abound and tests have been run, but still today people wonder why it was that such a simple curl of the lips could be so expressive.
The Original Theories

For many years, when asked “Why is Mona Lisa smiling?” many art historians were given to offering their own outlandish theories on the smile. It appears differently to everyone that views it and for that reason has been the source of much speculation. Largely, it was thought early on that her smile was supposed to be cloying, to draw the observer closer into observing her and her surroundings. Whether she was happy or just being ironic was always a source of much argument though, as outlined in the original biography by Vasari and his description of the smile.
Freud and the Mother Theory

Always prone to his own augmented theories on the nature of art and literature, Sigmund Freud proffered that the smile was a representation of Leonardo’s attraction to his mother. For him, “Why is the Mona Lisa smiling” was less a question and more of a psychological twist on things. Using his own Oedipus Complex theory, Freud built on the theory that the painting might be a representation of DaVinci or his mother instead of Lisa Gherardini.

This theory is further expanded in more recent books that suggest the painting might be a portrait of his mother and that the smile might be a knowing smile of sorts. Others have postulated that the smile might be similarly secretive regarding an affair DaVinci might have had with another of his possible patrons.
The Smile Itself

To best understand why everyone is so intrigued by this enigmatic smile, it’s important to know that the smile is incredibly unique as a visual stimulus. The nature of the smile, painted in Sfumato, forces the eye to adjust to it according to how you perceive it. Different angles, different people, and different focal points create different effects when viewing the painting. An Art Professor from Harvard, Margaret Livingstone outlined her theory that the smile can only be seen from a peripheral angle, usually when staring into the eyes. Other scientists, such as Christopher Tyler from Smith-Kettlewell Institute theorized that the smile is actually an example of random noise in human vision.

Regardless of the nature of the smile, it definitely appears different to different people and has a habit of extending or retracting according to who views her. The carefully painted corners of her mouth blend so seamlessly upward as to combine with the rest of her face and facilitate a perfect example of Sfumato and not just the blurring of the lines in the painting, but of the lines in our perception.
So, Why Was the Mona Lisa Smiling?

Recent science has taken many leaps and with it the development of some incredibly apt emotional recognition software has helped scientists begin the process of analyzing art’s great mysteries, including the Mona Lisa’s smile. In 2005, a team of scientists from the University of Amsterdam tried their hands at discerning exactly what the Mona Lisa’s smile means. Their software eventually came up with results that described the smile as 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry, and less than 1% neutral. According to their research, the smile is definitely a meaningful expression and most likely is a happy one.

The science is of course new though and offers only the most cursory of examples as to the actual make up of the world’s most famous piece of art and the question of why the Mona Lisa is smiling.

Impact of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

The Composition and Images of The Last Supper, World Famous Painting

In the composition of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, the Apostles and their reactions at hearing the news that one of them would betray Jesus are the focal points. The traditional perception of the Last Supper has always focused on Jesus. However, much of the painting is revealed in the actions of his disciples. Every one of the apostles reacts differently, each of them grouped into four groups of three.

So How Many Disciples Were at the Last Supper?

The first group, consisting of Bartholomew, James  Alphaeus and Andrew are all shocked and huddled together.

The second group of three consists of Judas Iscariot, Peter and John. This is the most controversial of the four groupings as it consist of Judas and John, who many have described as looking feminine. Judas himself is dressed in green and blue and recessed into the shadows, looking taken aback at the revelation. He holds a small bag, possibly signifying the silver he received for his betrayal. His elbow rests on the table along with that of Jude Thaddeus’s, a rude gesture of bad manners. Peter holds a knife in his hand and points it away from Christ. Finally John, the youngest of the apostles swoons in his pose.

The third grouping consists of Thomas, James Zebedee and Philip. Thomas is upset, though not angry while James is stunned by the news, with his arms raised into the air. Philip is confused in some manner, seeking further explanation of the situation.

The final grouping includes Matthew, Jude and Simon. Matthew and Jude are both turned toward Simon as though seeking answers.

It was not until the 19th century, when one of Leonardo’s notebooks was found that anyone could be sure of the exact names of the disciples at the Last Supper of Leonardo’s painting. He listed them in his notes however, making it possible to identify them.

The Last Supper picture itself is a common theme from the time period, though Leonardo utilizes numerous methods that other artists did not. While he does seat his entire cast on one side of the table as others did before, he does not exclude Judas or remove him from the table altogether. He also does not utilize halos to demarcate the good disciples from the bad. Instead, he uses a much more dramatic and realistic approach that involves recessing Judas into the shadows. He also creates a subtle mechanism for having Judas reach for the bread at the same time as Jesus, as neither realizes the other is doing so. As Jesus reaches for the bread, Judas is distracted and does the very same.

The lighting of the painting all points toward Jesus along with the angles. Everything centralizes on his figure as he stretches his arms out and creates a triangle to base the rest of the painting on.

Finally, it’s been noted how many groupings of the number 3 are included in the painting, a possible reference to the Holy Trinity by Leonardo. The Apostles are seated in groups of three. There are three windows on the wall and Jesus is a triangle himself. It’s impossible to know if there were any other references because of the manner in which the painting has deteriorated over time.

The Basis for Da Vinci’s Last Supper

Regardless of the reasons for painting it, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci was a common theme among Renaissance painters. It was considered something of a challenge to the master artist to put together a properly crafted representation of the last meal of Christ. Much has been made of that final meal, not only in art, but in the basic Sacraments of most dominations of Christianity.

When did Jesus celebrate the last supper with his apostles?

The history of the Last Supper itself relates the final meal of Jesus with his twelve disciples, as described in the New Testament of the Christian Bible and though the exact day of the Last Supper is debated, most agree it was the day before Passover began. The location of the Last Supper of Jesus was in the Upper Room on Mount Zion, located near the Old City of Jerusalem’s walls. During the course of the last Supper, Jesus spoke to his disciples while taking the bread and the wine, “Do this in remembrance of Me”. For that reason, the Eucharist was born, a tradition designed to remember that final meal of Christ. The room itself is known traditionally as the Upper Room.

The location of the Upper Room has been derived from the gospels stating that Jesus had a pair of disciples go to the city and meet a man who would lead them to a house where the teacher had a room. The room in question is described as the upper room and they are to prepare the Passover while there.

Because of the Last Supper’s time period, the actual city it takes place in is not known and could be anywhere just outside of Jerusalem. The Last Supper was the source for many of the symbolic actions taken by Christians in churches around the world. Jesus takes and divides the bread among his disciples, saying a prayer over it. He then hands the bread to his disciples and says this is my body. Then he takes his cup of wine and after offering another prayer, passes the cup around and says this is my blood of the everlasting ‘covenant’, which is poured for many. He then makes the instruction to do this in the memory of me.

It was also during this meal that Jesus offered the revelation that one of his apostles would betray him. It was truly the last supper that the disciples would have with Jesus. They each in turn refuse this claim, reasserting their loyalty, but Jesus insists that one of the men present will betray him. In both the gospels of Mark and Luke, the betrayer is not singled out. However Matthew and John specifically single out Judas Iscariot as the betrayer.
After confirming that Peter would deny Christ three times, Jesus finishes the meal with his disciples and begins a sermon, traditionally known as the Farewell Discourse. This final speech to his disciples in considered one of the most important descriptions of Christianity by Christ in the gospels.

The importance of the event lives on today in the form of the Eucharist of the Roman Catholic Church and the “Inauguration of the New Covenant” by most Christians. As a prophecy related by Jeremiah, this covenant refers to the line in which Christ told his disciples to eat of his body and drink of his blood. Other groups see the Last Supper as a symbol of change to the Passover ceremony, replacing the traditional Jewish practice with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Generally, each of the major branches of Christianity has its own slightly different interpretation of the Last Supper. However, in the end, this final act by Jesus with his disciples is considered one of the most important and inspirational scenes in the Bible and subsequently in all of Renaissance Art.

Motivation behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s Paintings

Leonardo Da Vinci’s artistic style derived from a variety of different purposes and causes throughout his life. He left us only a small handful of paintings to his name, barely more than half a dozen, but he is still recognized as one of the preeminent artists of the Western World. This derives greatly from his ability to think on and produce solutions and methods for almost every problem he saw.

As for what makes his artistic output so engaging and influential despite his lack thereof, the answer largely lies in the work he did as a scientist and thinker outside of art. His fascination with the human body – its composition, form and function – is best represented in the Vitruvian Man, but goes well beyond that simple sketch. But, Leonardo’s fascination went much deeper and with that fascination came a deep understanding of the human form. The paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci are testament to that.

By understanding what it was that made the human body work, Leonardo da Vinci, with simple watercolor paints, was able to depict the absolutely subtlety that was the human form with ease, best seen in the careful placement and perspective play of the Mona Lisa. He developed a new take on perspective in his artwork that artists before him had not yet attempted. In the Mona Lisa, single point perspective was preeminent and in the Last Supper, the revised perspective, radiating from Christ, with Judas as a member of the disciples at the table has been well documented.

Many people have broken down Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and work into three main arenas. The first of those is that of understanding the world in which he lived produced countless drawings and observations on the nature of the world, the human body and the natural world. The second is that of imagination, in which Leonardo applied his observations to the creation and imagination of new ideas such as the thousands of inventions found in his notes. The third was his theoretical phase, in which he tried to understand the greater basis of the world and how everything worked. This is where his obsession with mathematics derived from.

Da Vinci’s artistic technique was a combination of all of his interests into a single expression of his internal energies. Though a good deal of his work can be given over to the necessity of gaining commissions and making money to survive, Leonardo’s actual productions were the culmination of his entire life’s work. The geometrical beauty of his paintings resulted from his extreme interest in the topic and his human forms, so incredibly alive in their expressions were the result of his ability to understand and replicate the physical nature of things around him. For Leonardo de Vinci, pictures he created were infinitely more intricate than the words he used to describe them.

Many of Da Vinci’s paintings were of a religious nature and that was par for the day and age in which he lived. Similarly, many of the techniques witnessed in his work are most likely results of the preceding style of the day. The feminine appearance of John in the Last Supper or the superimposition of his own facial features onto the Mona Lisa – most likely because he had studied his own face – have given rise to many other theories about his inclinations because of the incredible detail that his studies lent to his work.

To say Leonardo Da Vinci invented light, shadow, foreshortening, and perspective on his own is giving one man too much credit. However, looking at the work of his contemporaries and predecessors, it can definitely be said that his attention to the detail and form of the world around him created the kind of intellect and depth needed by a single man to discover such techniques. His use of sfumato in the Mona Lisa is legendary as well as the development of single point perspective. His incredible mastery of triangulated geometry in so many of his paintings has been replicated for centuries and he was able to, more than anyone else, understand the necessity of proper ratios and perspective. Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork and paintings are an example of what the renaissance was about, the combination of curiosity, intellect and absolute talent. Leonardo Da Vinci’s images live on today as a testimony to that.

Mona Lisa – Simple Commission, Self Portrait, or Greater Mystery?

The Mona Lisa is more than a simple work of art. The rumors, mysteries, and intrigue that have clouded it since it was first painted have made into an icon of sorts. Whatever his true intentions were when he painted it, there are hundreds of legends for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, meaning scholars will continue debating for centuries to come.

Mona Lisa Theories

There have been years of scholarly debate as to the meaning of the Mona Lisa and what Da Vinci was trying to do with his painting. The discovery that much of the work is balanced with carefully constructed dimensions has been augmented by the perfect Golden Rectangle in the Mona Lisa’s face and the one in her neck. A shape whose ratio of length to width is 1.6 is considered a Golden Rectangle. The ratio itself is considered a common natural occurrence and is believed to be one of the most pleasing shapes to the human eye, a good reason why artists attempt to utilize it in their artwork.

However, in Da Vinci’s work, the appearance of such shapes is so perfectly situated that many people have begun to see the painting as a palate of symbols and hidden meanings. The truth may never be discovered, though it is a sure thing that Da Vinci threw every trick he had as an artist into the painting, including the creation of new techniques that worked to draw that much more attention to the facial features. Blurring the edges of the Mona Lisa’s mouth with the Sfumato painting technique many attribute to him has also created the illusion of a smile that changes depending on where you look.

As to what Da Vinci was trying to hide with that smile or in those hands or background, few have been able to quite agree. Religious allusions have been blown out of proportion in literature and film and the possibility that her smile hides some hidden knowledge still persists in new books and theories almost annually.

Meaning of the Mona Lisa – The Visual Effects

What causes most people to so thoroughly disbelieve that the Mona Lisa is a simple portrait is the incredible detail and multilayered effects of the painting that even now are just being discovered. With every flicker of the eye and curl of the smile, the Mona Lisa mystery spreads to a new generation. Everyone knows of the effects of the smile, but the rest of the face and the background have similar effects, creating the appearance that the woman in the painting is more alive than simple paint ever could be.

For example, the horizon in the background appears at different levels on either side of her face. On the left side, it is lower, level with the eyes and creating a proper perspective in portrait. The right side however, is distorted. Because the left side is level, the view from the right should create a downward slope in the eyes from the left side. However, the painting slopes the opposite direction instead. This creates the subtle effect of rounding the face and making it feel more alive.

It also creates part of the effect seen in the eyes in which they appear to follow the observer, one of many stories of Mona Lisa observers take home with them from the Louvre. The human eye will take two separate images from different dimensional perspectives and combine them in certain instances – say when two differently angled X-rays are taken – and create the illusion of a three dimensional shape. By forcing the observer to compensate where they are looking and how they absorb the painting, Leonardo was able to create the illusion that the Mona Lisa’s eyes and face move.

This level of detail and carefully planned effect has caused many people to consider it highly unlikely that DaVinci was painting a simple portrait. Others still find it hard to believe that such effects were contrived on purpose, given the complexity of the portrait. The mysteries thus continue on, unanswered.

Stories behind the Mona Lisa’s Smile

The smile is easily the most discussed of the Mona Lisa’s many mysteries. The primary consensus is that it is simply a smile. However, from an artist with the talent of Da Vinci, it surely was being utilized to display some hidden meaning, right? That is the theory of many scholars, and their thoughts are often quite vivid.

One of the many theories is that Da Vinci might have painted his mother into the portrait, a theory Sigmund Freud was fond of that included the idea that DaVinci might have had a sexual attraction to his mother. Support for such a theory is minimal though many point to the self-portraits of Da Vinci which might actually be paintings of his mother and his historical relation to her.

As for the model herself, many have stated that Lisa Gherardini was pregnant when the painting was started, supported by the wearing of the veil over her hair and the black clothing. However, others still see the smile as ironic or sad and point to her unhappiness in her marriage. Many stories behind Mona Lisa are directly related to her identity as Gherardini and her social standing.

However, another theory is that Da Vinci might have actually used a model, in this case Lisa Gherardini, but did not paint her. It’s impossible to know whether the truth of the Mona Lisa lays in the likeness of that woman from Florence, but the evidence still points to her role in its painting. However, with so many other features in the painting it’s easy to theorize that the painting itself might have a completely different goal. He may have painted her likeness as the basis of the painting and used it as a chance to utilize any of a number of other techniques found.

Another Odd Theory – Mona Lisa Was a Man

One theory that has stuck for many years despite the lack of evidence and support is that the painting is actually a self-portrait of Da Vinci himself and that the painting is something of a joke, with DaVinci smirking at his audience. The support for this theory lies mostly in the similarity in the facial structure of Da Vinci’s self portraits with the Mona Lisa. Leonardo DaVinci as a woman is still a hard image to accept for many scholars though.

However, recent computer programs used to line up the sketch and painting have shown that the facial features are almost exact matches. Other scholars have noted though that the reason for this might be nothing more than the results of a single artist creating both works with the same techniques. The truth about Mona Lisa might lie in that she isn’t really a she, but the theory is very much in contention and there is no way to prove it one way or the other.

The Controversy of the Mona Lisa

The painting’s striking visual effects and incredibly robust history has long had a massive effect on those that view. Kings and Emperors have placed her in their bedrooms, a museum worker stole her, and other men have thrown rocks and acid at her. For the Mona Lisa, controversy lies in the painting’s source, its meaning, and its popularity. However, more than anything else, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, no matter its meaning, is a result of the effect it has on its viewers. It’s incredibly hard to believe such an incredibly beautiful painting was born of a simple commission for a merchant’s wife.

Leonardo DaVinci’s Drawings

Leonardo Da Vinci is nearly as famous for many of his drawings and sketches as he was for his completed paintings. The difference of course is that his completed works are much less in number and often took him years to complete. His drawings, often found in his notebooks, ranged from simple sketches of arms for use in the Last Supper to fully featured sketches of paintings he would eventually alter or never painted at all.

Because he was such an incredibly apt draftsman, there are infinitely more journals of small sketches than completed works of art. In fact, it is often said that between Leonardo Da Vinci’s studies and paintings, he preferred his studies and painted rarely because of the demands of his other studies. Regardless, he was one of the greatest artists who ever lived and it shows even in the simplest of sketches.

The earliest Da Vinci illustration, dated back to 1473, is that of a Landscape of the Arno Valley. This sketch is an incredibly detailed depiction of the river, mountains, Montelupo Castle, and farmlands beyond the castle of the valley. From here, he would go on to sketch numerous other drafts.

The most famous of his many drawings is that of the Vitruvian Man. Kept now carefully guarded, the Vitruvian Man is one of the most famous single images in history and depicts the carefully crafted proportions of the ideal male body. Another incredibly famous and largely used drawing is that of the Head of an Angel, a sketch utilized for The Virgin of the Rocks.

The most impressive of Leonardo Da Vinci’s classical drawings would have to be the 160×100 cm rendering in black chalk of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. Using the same techniques developed in the Mona Lisa of sfumato and shadowy corners, the drawing was never made into a painting. The closest painting to this image is that of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.

Leonardo’s drawings consist of numerous other creations, many of which include what were once considered caricatures. However, after close studies of the heads and bodies drawn, it has been largely agreed upon that they were real models with deformities of some kind. Additionally there are numerous sketches of a certain man whose “Grecian Profile” was greatly appreciated by Leonardo during his career. The sketches often show the young man dressed in fancy costumes, possibly related to the pageants for which Leonardo occasionally worked.

There are numerous sketches devoted solely to the effects and depiction of fabric as seen in draperies. Leonardo worked extensively to do so in his early career. There is one particular sketch that exists as an early example of likely hired work. Leonardo sketched the death from hanging of Giuliano Baroncelli. He political conspiracy aside, Leonardo wrote casually of the deceased clothing.

One final famous sketch that has been tied to Leonardo and mentioned repeatedly when studying his other works is the Leonardo Da Vinci self portrait. The portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci is a simple rendition of himself in the latter years of his life. However, the controversy surrounding that picture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s face arises from the direct connection between the facial structures of the self-portrait and the Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist. It has lead to much speculation that the Mona Lisa might in fact be Da Vinci himself or another woman. However, as there are no other pictures of Leonardo Da Vinci, there is no real way to know.