THE MONA LISA by Leonardo da Vinci
Described as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”, the Mona Lisa is also probably the most valuable. Conservative estimates have the painting valued at $800 million, although given recent mad prices at auctions around the globe, few would be surprised if it sold for $1 billion if it came up for auction. So what makes it special?
Painted by the Italian Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci in the first decade of the sixteenth century (although recent opinions argue it was a decade later), the 77 cm × 53 cm portrait in oil on poplar, is believed to be of the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, Lisa Gherardini. It was painted in the Italian city of Florence, but in 1518 it passed into the Royal Collection of the French monarch, Francis I. It is now on permanent display in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, where it has been since 1797.
The expression on the subjects face is where much of the paintings appeal lays, although it only took on its current lofty level in the popular conciousness in 1911, when it was stolen. Even the great painter Pablo Picasso, and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, were suspects at one time, such was the level of intrigue, but it was an inside job and the work returned less than three years later.
The Mona Lisa bears a strong resemblance to many Renaissance depictions of the Virgin Mary, who was at that time seen as an ideal for womanhood. The woman sits markedly upright in a “pozzetto” armchair with her arms folded, a sign of her reserved posture. Her gaze is fixed on the observer. The woman appears alive to an unusual extent, which Leonardo achieved by his method of not drawing outlines (sfumato). The soft blending creates an ambiguous mood “mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes”. The painting was one of the first portraits to depict the sitter in front of an imaginary landscape, and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use aerial perspective.aris since 1797.