Mona Lisa Image

 Make Mona Lisa by  Leonardo Davainci

The lady is normally accepted to be Ginevra de’ Benci, one of the most gifted intellectuals of her time. Historians generally consider the portrait was commissioned to celebrate the occasion of her marriage on January 15th, 1474 to Luigi Niccolini.

La Belle Ferronniere

Madana

Cecilia Gallerani was Ludovico Sforza’s first mistress and Leonardo painted her in the form of Lady with the Ermine. Later, the Duke was to take another mistress, Lucrezia Crivelli, and she is thought to be the subject of this painting. An alternative suggestion, though less accepted, is that this painting is Isabella of Aragon.

Done around 1495 this painting takes its name from the ferroniere the sitter wears around her brow, a common Lombard fashion. In the nineteenth century this work was much admired and widely copied, though no other artist managed to capture the beautiful modelling of the face. It is thought the painting may have originally been balanced with an architectural element on the left but this is one work over which there are more questions than answers.

Done around 1495 this painting takes its name from the ferroniere the sitter wears around her brow, a common Lombard fashion. In the nineteenth century this work was much admired and widely copied, though no other artist managed to capture the beautiful modelling of the face. It is thought the painting may have originally been balanced with an architectural element on the left but this is one work over which there are more questions than answers.

Monalosa

LadyIn Madonna with the Carnation Jesus reaches out awkwardly for the flower held delicately in Mary’s fingers. Like all infants he looks yet unable to control his movements as he attempts to grasp the symbol of the Passion.

Mona Lisa

The Louvre, Paris

Much has also been made about the Mona Lisa’s ‘uncommonly thick’ eyebrows, a belief which came about after Vasari wrote a description of the painting. A close examination of the above detail shows there aren’t any eyebrows; women of the time commonly shaved these off. Vasari had never seen the Mona Lisa and though it is popular to quote his text on the painting it must be realised he wrote his treatise based entirely upon hearsay. Despite this, he was totally accurate in stating that, “On looking at the pit of the throat one could swear that the pulses were beating.”

The most expressive parts of the human face are the outer points of the lips and eyes. Leonardo has deliberately left these areas in shadow which creates the effect of causing different people to read different emotions on the face of the sitter, whomever she may be.

Mona Lisa is distinguished by her complete absence of jewellery whereas the norm for the day was to present subjects with elaborate decoration as can be seen in the painting done by Titan of Caterina Cornaro, Queen Of Cyprus. Mona Lisa’s hair is smooth with only the covering of a black veil, hands are free of rings or bracelets and nothing adorns her neck. There are small intricate loops across the neckline of her dress; such was Leonardo’s interest in codes that many people have searched in vain for a message in these loops. This painting went against all the trends of the time and is a perfect example of how Leonardo never followed traditions. He abandoned the usual poses, which had subjects shown as stiff and upright, replacing this with a relaxed sitter, her beautifully painted hands resting easily on the arm of her chair.

While most people are aware the Mona Lisa is also called La Gioconda by the Italians (translation: “a light-hearted woman.”), fewer know the French refer to it as La Joconde. Done in oils on poplar wood it was originally much larger than it is today. Two columns on either side of Mona Lisa have been cut off making it difficult to recognise she was seated on a terrace. The bases of these columns can just be seen on the very edges of the painting which now measures only 77 x 53 cms.

At the time Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa he was also doing some of his finest sketches of plant life and nature. This can be clearly seen in the background of the panel and it is very elaborate, perhaps the finest he ever did. The bridge shown has now been identified as being at Buriano (Arezzo).

The painting of Mona Lisa has had an interesting history being stolen on the 21st August 1911 from an Italian thief who had taken the painting to Italy. The loss of the painting was not reported for twenty-four hours as most employees assumed it had been removed by the official museum photographer. It then took a week to search the 49-acre Louvre with the only find being the painting’s frame, which was located in a staircase. It resurfaced some two years later in Florence, when an Italian named Vincenzo Perugia offered to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery for US$100,000. It was exhibited for a time and then returned to Paris.

To steal the painting Perugia had spent a night hiding in a little-used room at the Louvre. While the museum was closed he simply walked into the room where the Mona Lisa was hung, removed it from the wall then cut it from the frame once he reached the staircase. He then exited the building breaking out through a ‘locked’ door by unscrewing the doorknob. Ten months prior to the theft the Louvre had made the decision to begin having their masterpieces placed under glass. Perugia was one of four men assigned to the job and so in a position to get to know the Louvre well enough to pull off the crime.

In 1956 acid was thrown on the lower half of the painting with the required restoration taking some years.

The situation today is that the Mona Lisa has become so well-known that it may only be viewed behind thick protective glass after battling through a large crowd of sightseers. The cover of triplex glass which protects the painting was gifted by the Japanese during the Mona Lisa’s 1974 visit to Japan — that being the last time it left the museum. By international agreement the painting will no longer be displayed in other countries but will stay safely on display at the Louvre in Paris where it may be properly protected against further damage, theft or attack. The bulletproof box is kept at a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 55 percent; a built-in air conditioner and nine pounds of silica gel ensure no change in the air condition. Once a year the box is opened to check the painting and for maintenance on the air conditioning system.

Time may have cracked and crazed the paintwork of the Mona Lisa, but the air of mystery remains. It has been endlessly reproduced, has inspired numerous writers, poets and musicians, yet remains little understood. The same style can be seen used by other masters such as Raphael (Maddalena Doni) and Carot (Dame à la Perle). Many naked women have been painted or drawn in the attitude of the Mona Lisa and these were a favourite on the occasions when artists were called on to portray royals in their baths. The Carrara Academy in Bergamo has just one of many nude versions, this one having been painted in the 17th century. Copying of the Mona Lisa style started even before the painting was finished.

By far the most controversial version of the Mona Lisa is in the Vernon collection in the U.S. This painting clearly shows the columns on either side of the sitter which have been cut off the Louvre example. The owners consider the artwork to be authentic and value it at $2.5 million.

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.

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