Thursday, January 27, 2011

History of The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is possibly the most famous painting. Known by many because of the model represented, it is shrouded in mystery. Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in a span of nearly 16 years during the Italian Renaissance, the portrait appears to ask questions of the viewer. Long debated is the question as to who Da Vinci was painting.
One of the first theories is that the Mona Lisa portrait is actually a self portrait of Da Vinci. Using talent and skill, DaVinci simply applied the necessary qualities to depict a female as opposed to his male self. For a time this idea was embraced by many and comparisons were made between his features as those of the Mona Lisa. Most recently this theory has since been considered to be false and replaced by several others.

To study the portrait one can see the similarities between the Mona Lisa and DaVinci’s self portrait. Theorists who have since denied that the people depicted are one and the same point to the conclusion that DaVinci was responsible for both his self portrait and the Mona Lisa. Therefore, the similarities would be apparent as artists tend to present signature qualities in their work regardless of the subject.

Many historians have pointed to numerous possible individuals who DaVinci could have painted. These include those subjects closest to him such as his mother or grandmother. In addition, DaVinci could have painted a random individual that presented some quality he wanted to capture. In this instance the subject could possibly remain nameless forever.

Possibly the most controversial of all theories is that the Mona Lisa is a representation of Mary Magdalene. A female is present in the picture the Last Supper and it is believed that the Mona Lisa and Mary Magdalene are one in the same.

Lastly the most recent theory states that the Mona Lisa is actually the Duchess of Milan. A young girl who married into a marriage fraught with pain and disillusionment, the Duchess would be a likely candidate for DaVinci’s famous work.

Known by DaVinci, Isabella of Aragon married to become the Duchess of Milan. Her husband was less than attentive to her needs and battled the bottle. This theory has been presented by Maike Vogt-Luerssen. Through extensive research and painstaking review of the portrait in its entirety, it is this theory that represents what we as emotional beings are drawn to. It presents the story of a lovesick young girl marrying her prince charming only to find out that it will not be a marriage of fairy tales.

Behind a painting

The infrared images also revealed da Vinci's preparatory drawings that lie behind layers of varnish and paint, showing that the Renaissance man was also human.

"If you look at the left hand you see the first position of the finger, and he changed his mind for another position," Cotte said. "Even Leonardo da Vinci had hesitation."

Other revelations include:

=Lace on Mona Lisa's dress
=The transparency of the veil shows da Vinci first painted a landscape and then used transparency techniques to paint the veil atop it.
=A change in the position of the left index and middle finger.
=The elbow was repaired from damage due to a rock thrown at the painting in 1956.
=The blanket covering Mona Lisa's knees also covers her stomach.
=The left finger was not completely finished.
=A blotch mark on the corner of the eye and chin are varnish accidents, countering claims that Mona Lisa was sick.
=And the Mona Lisa was painted on uncut poplar board, contrary to speculations.

In the larger picture, Cotte said when he stands back and looks up at the enlarged infrared image of Mona Lisa, her beauty and mystique are apparent.

"If you are in front of this huge enlargement of Mona Lisa, you understand instantly why Mona Lisa is so famous," Cotte said. He added, it's something you have to see with your own eyes.

Mona Lisa mysteries

A zoomed-in image of Mona Lisa's left eye revealed a single brush stroke in the eyebrow region, Cotte said.

"I am an engineer and scientist, so for me all has to be logical. It was not logical that Mona Lisa does not have any eyebrows or eyelashes," Cotte told LiveScience. "I discovered one hair of the eyebrow."

Another conundrum had been the position of the subject's right arm, which lies across her stomach. This was the first time, Cotte said, that a painter had rendered a subject's arm and wrist in such a position. While other artists had never understood da Vinci's reasoning, they copied it nonetheless.

Cotte discovered the pigment just behind the right wrist matched up perfectly with that of the painted cover that drapes across Mona Lisa's knee. So it did make sense: The forearm and wrist held up one side of a blanket.

"The wrist of the right hand is up high on the stomach. But if you look deeply in the infrared you understand that she holds a cover with her wrist," Cotte said.

p/s : The last work done on the panel was in the 1950's when age spots were removed during a cleaning. Suggestions that the painting should experience a thorough facelift involving the removal of layers of resin, lacquer and varnish from the past 500 years have received a firm thumbs down from the Louvre. Computer restoration shows that the colours of the painting may be quite different without the grime that presently covers it. Rosy cheeks instead of sickly yellow, pale blue skies instead of the present green glow. On the downside, any attempt to clean the painting may result in irreparable damage from the various solvents required to remove the varnish and there is no guarantee the suspected bright colours exist below the coatings which have been applied over the years as a protectant. For those lucky enough to have viewed the work under natural light state there is still a surprising amount of colour evident to the eye, maybe more is below the grime, but no one dares to clean her. X-rays have shown there are three different versions of the Mona Lisa hidden under the present one.


  1. The paintings are supereb..

  2. wow the mona lisa has so much mystery behind it!

  3. The mona lisa will bring joy and etertainmets to people for many years to come but i dont think there is a mystery. That is my opinion maybe it was a great mastery of art as a self portrait of Da Vinchi himself

  4. wow i REALLY want to find out the mystery

  5. wow. this is all so confusing and amazing

  6. mona lisa looks so perfect!