The Mona Lisa is a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is a piece of art that has earned its place in the hall of fame.
For someone who knows so little about fine art, like me, you are probably wondering why the Mona Lisa is so gassed up. I mean, she was only but an ordinary woman living a modest life before she was discovered. Her real name was Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Before the painting, she was not so famous.
Well, everything changed when Leonardo Da Vinci demonstrated the subtle poetry of sfumato using his paintbrush. It took a genius like Da Vinci to bring the portrait to life by adding tangible raw emotions on a canvas.
The year was 1517 when King Francis the 1st of France commissioned his personal artist, engineer, and architect Da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa. Unlike today when we carry our cameras everywhere on our phones, It was pretty hard to have a personal photo of yourself in the 16th century.
So, having a portrait of yourself was rare. Having a professional painter like Leo do a personal life-like portrait of Lisa is even more profound. Here are some reasons why the Mona Lisa is so famous.
1. Leonardo Da Vinci revolutionized art by inventing a new technique.
The painting is done using the sfumato technique, which literally means smoke in Italian. It involves blending different layers of oil painting so that there are no sharp edges on the portrait. Her skin is subtly grained using mild irregular brush strokes that are soft and invisible to the eye. Take a look at her hands, for instance. The misty oil color enhances the vividness of her skin, where the light falls on the back of her hand. The lighter colors contrast against the dark hues with a reflective inner luminosity. Leonardo artistically shows the creases on her simple robes, which we may presume were carefully chosen.
During the Renaissance era, rich ladies like Gherardini wore elegant clothes, not to forget their jewels. But the clothes aren`t the most important aspect of the painting.
Look at her face again. Da Vinci skillfully demonstrated his groundbreaking technique by giving depth to her face. He made her face look surreal in a three-dimensional space through the light and dark gradients. The precision in detail makes the painting a truly marvelous piece to behold. I bet you hadn`t noticed the armchair on which she rests her hand!
2. Leonardo`s composition is thought-provoking to art lovers.
Let your eyes wander around the painting away from the belle`s alluring face. On the left side, you will notice an undulating, beaten path that leads to a blue lake in between a mountainous landscape. The background is somewhat hazy because your focus should be on Mona Lisa. You`d be forgiven to think that the mountains are redundant, but they work the magic of making us focus on the subject matter. Isn`t it lovely how Da Vinci suddenly takes us on a casual walk from the room where Lisa is seated and into the great outdoors through his imagination?
The noble lady sits at the center of the room, while the background gives a vanishing perceptive of the portrait. The painter was an avid reader who researched optics before he embarked on working on the masterpiece. The mountains disappear hazily into the background from an aerial view of the landscape.
3. Her sitting posture is bewitching.
You are in the 16th century, an era when you`d need a time-traveling machine to get a digital camera. How do you get a beautiful color picture of yourself? Simply trust a genius like Da Vinci to bring your image to life on the flat canvas.
Check out how she is seated on her armchair. The Bella seems to be facing you at an angle. But if you closely examine the vanishing horizon, it is slightly more skewed on the left than on the right. Leonardo deliberately painted the piece in this manner because of how our eyes interpret visuals. If you look at her again after checking the horizon, she gently shifts her posture.
From his in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, Da Vinci knew that our eyes would expect the horizon to be at the same eye level throughout the canvas. By skewing the horizon beyond the mountains, plus the light that falls on the robe running over her right shoulder, he creates the illusion that she sits in a three-dimensional space. When you adjust your gaze, you will feel like the portrait is tangible because La Gacionda`s sitting posture shifts with the change in your perspective. Mind-blowing!
4. How long did it take Da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa?
It took more than 10 years to paint the Mona Lisa. During this period, Leonardo studied how we humans perceive surfaces and colors. You will appreciate the minute details of brushwork the artist puts in when you savor the piece as a whole. From the translucent headgear covering her hair to the shadows below her cheekbones that give the painting a magnetic allure.
Word has it that Leonardo had to hire violinists to entertain her during the painting sessions. Imagine sitting in one position for months. You`d also get bored. But Da Vinci went out of his way to make the lady feel comfortable as he captured her beauty in a timeless piece of art.
5. Lastly, the painting feels real.
Don`t believe me? Go back and check it once more. Nothing so significant about her, right?
Leonardo Da Vinci composed the Mona Lisa like a pyramid so you could focus on her face. Looking deeply into her languid brown eyes that follow you from every angle, you can feel her smile melt your heart. A rather ambiguous feeling when you scan her lips because once you detach from her enchanting stare, her smile fades into a mere smirk.
It is no wonder Mona Lisa continues to mesmerize the throes of people who flock to the Louvre museum in Paris. Legend has it that when Mona Lisa smiles at you, you will have a lovely day ahead.
© 2022 Martin Karl