Truth Revealed: Insight into the Mona Lisa
Leonardo Da Vinci is both a well known artist and inventor. His work has transcended several revolutions within the world of art and his most famous work, the Mona Lisa, baffles both historians and scholars today. The Mona Lisa, believed to have been undertaken in 1506, has been proclaimed to be the embodiment of the Feminine Mystique. Here Da Vinci tells all about his mixture of painting techniques, the identity of Mona and her peculiar smile.
DA VINCI: I began painting Mona Lisa on pine using oil based paints however my finished work is on poplar. To bring attention to Mona as opposed to the background in the painting I employed a technique now known as aerial perspective. Although I hardly think artists of my time where using this method of blurring ever so slightly.
Many scholars have questioned who the Mona Lisa was and although I acknowledge that there are similarities between myself and the young Madame she is not I. Mona Lisa is the wife of a very wealthy Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo (Pourtauborde, 2003, ¶ 4) I was commissioned to paint Giocondo after the birth of second son. Many scholars over the years have speculated that Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile is due to some form of secret that she may have held. Some say that she may have been pregnant and other concludes that Mona Lisa was having an affair. And some even assert that Mona Lisa is a portrait of my mother, (Firenze, 2002). This idea spurred the inevitable conclusion of Sigmund Freud who made it known that he believed I had a secrete attraction for my mother, how Freudian, (Firenze). Although the mysteries surrounding my painting have certainly increased its success I was more interested in creating depth than scandal.
The Mona Lisa was my attempt to show how blurring can be used to create focal depth, volume and form. The technique of painting a background and then using a translucent layer of paint to give a smoky appearance is called Sfumato. Although some believe that I developed the common method of distinguishing landscape background from focal point this is not so. However, I am the first to do this by using sfumato. To achieve this feel I use no harsh lines. All of the background outlines are blurred. By employing this sfumatic technique I achieved an aerial perspective. Aerial perspective refers to distance between an object and the background landscape. When there is a large distance there is also a large blurring of the background details. I employed aerial perspective to add depth to Mona Lisa’s portrait as well as bring her face into the center of the painting as the focal point.
The motivation for Mona Lisa was a combination of Giocondo’s lovely face and my desire to try a different approach to both depth and focal point. The mysteries surrounding Giocondo’s smile are peculiar. Although it may be true that my model was pregnant, having an affair or carrying some deep rooted secret I was not aware of any of these. I contributed her smile as being the symptom of having to hold still for extended periods of time while smiling.
Firenze, R. D. (2002). The Mystery of the Mona Lisa. New York, NY: Author’s Choice Press.
Pourtauborde, A. (2003). What is the mystery behind the Mona Lisa’s smile. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2008, from www.wisegeek.com