Why So Serious?


Leonardo De Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Oil on white Lombardy popular panel,  painted between 1503 and 1506

What is the big deal with this painting? it’s a woman half smiling. Thousands of artists have painted a woman kinda sorta smiling over the years, but the Mona Lisa has been around, talked about debated over, sung about for hundreds of years! because of her half smile? I wonder as Lisa De Giocondo sat and modeled for the Renaissance artist Leonardo De Vinci if there was a little voice in her head that said “this painting my dear is going to make you famous throughout the ages, while he painted was she thinking “did I leave the cooker on?” “what shall I wear to the Ball on Saturday? will Charlie be there, oh I hope he’s there” (then the cheeky smile comes on her face as she ponders their last encounter!)

Debates have been going for many years on her smile, why was she smiling? and according to The Culture Trip a man called Luc Maspero, a French artist, committed suicide because he had too many unanswered questions about the Mona Lisa’s smile!

It sincerely baffles me as to why and how some pieces of art get so much attention, so much fame, so much money thrown at it to preserve it and own it, so much respect. I also believe the artists creating these famous pieces had no idea at the time of creating it, that this was ‘The One’ that would put them on the map forever.

The Mona Lisa has been owned by royalty such as Francis l, Louis XlV and it was at some point hanging in the bedroom of Napolean in the Tuileries Palace.

The painting has been attacked more than once, stolen and restored countless times through the years, yet she still hangs regally in the Louvre in Paris.

Mona Lisa behind the Bullet Proof Glass in La Louvre
Mona Lisa behind Bullet Proof Glass in The Louvre

Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University who researched the Mona Lisa in 2003, said that “Mona Lisa’s smile disappears when looked with direct vision, known as foveal, because of the way the human eye processes the visual information it is less suited to pick up shadows directly, however, peripheral vision can pick up shadows well” According to Wikipedia Leonardo De Vinci had attributed to him the discovery of the ‘line-of-sight’ and used this when painting the Mona Lisa. People say they can see the Mona Lisa’s smile more clearly when they focus on her eyes and not her mouth, Try it, it’s true.

So here you have it, by clever low detailed brush strokes thereby creating an illusion of a smile Leonardo De Vinci produced one of the most iconic pieces of artwork to date that has stood strong for 500 years.

For a more technical reading on the explanation of how Leonardo De Vinci created the Mona Lisa Smile visit this link http://open.lib.umn.edu/intropsyc/chapter/4-2-seeing/


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