Features of the Mona Lisa (Beyond the Smile)

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The details of the Mona Lisa style utilized by Leonardo have enthralled and confused historians for centuries. Some of the smallest details have become some of art’s biggest mysteries. Beyond the smile, there are many other aspects deserving of more attention in their relation to the power of the overall painting.

Details of the Mona Lisa – Face

The Mona Lisa’s face is a culmination of numerous different stylistic elements that have the ultimate effect of drawing the observer’s attention directly to that focal point. By surrounding the face with the darkened surfaces of her dress, hair and veil, Leonardo utilized the natural lighting embracing her breast and hands to focus attention on the face.

The face itself is comprised of a numerous very powerful features. Foremost, everyone recognizes the enigmatic smile as an important aspect. Still debated today, the smile is seen differently by everyone who views the painting. It has been noted as innocent, happy, smug, and even a subconscious admission of Oedipal intrigue by Leonardo.

The combination of that almost imperceptible smile and the lighting of the spherical shapes on her face creates an inviting face that draws the viewer in, all the while contrasting with Leonardo’s use of distance and separation in the armrest and columns. Along with the eyes, these features are the most effective of the many lasting effects Leonardo crafts in this painting, a portrait that is so much more than a portrait.

Details of the Mona Lisa – Eyebrows

The face of the Mona Lisa is famously lacking any eyebrows, something many observers immediately note when viewing the painting. The reason for this deficiency is still largely unknown, as the question of whether or not it was purposefully done or not cannot really be known. One theory is that they might have been irretrievably destroyed during an early restoration hundreds of years ago. Another theory is that young women in that era often had their eyebrows plucked or removed as a part of popular fashion.

Details of the Mona Lisa – Eyes

In painting the Mona Lisa, Leonardo manage to create the magnificent effect of distance of closeness at the same time. Buried in the shadow of her brow, Mona Lisa’s eyes are the most piercing and inviting aspect of the entire painting. While the rest of the painting creates a sense of distance and separation, Mona Lisa’s eyes work to bridge that gap and invite the observer ever closer. The eyes focus directly on the observer and despite the simple look they offer, are vital to fully appreciating the dynamic effects of the facial expression. By staring at the eyes, the smile’s effect is amplified in periphery, creating an even more powerful expression. The beauty of this simplistic smile can be compared to the most beautiful of Mona Lisa lillies.

With a smile that is ageless, films, novels, and the ever beautiful Mona Lisa lily named for her elegant simplicity, Mona Lisa’s features are the paramount of artistic talent and expression.

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