Friday, April 3, 2009

Day One - Mona Lisa

I thought I would start off with "Mona Lisa" as it is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, paintings in the world; but perhaps most people don't know her background.
Also known as "La Gioconda", "Mona Lisa" is actually a portrait of the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci between 1503-06. It is painted on wood and measures 30 x 20 7/8 in (77 x 53 cm). It "resides" in the Musee du Louvre, Paris.
The painting is one of the first to set the subject against the backdrop of a landscape. Leonardo uses a pyramid design in placing the figure and the light illuminates her face against the darkness of her hair, clothing, etc. This draws us to her, yet keeps her at a distance at the same time. Thus there is a mysterious element about her.
Leonardo uses a technique called "sfumato"* which blurs the outlines and gives the painting a kind of smoky feeling. There is a feeling of calm about the painting.
It is her smile that has attracted viewers for generations. The slight opening of the lips at the corners of the mouth was considered a sign of elegance at that time.*
The portrait was never really finished and Francisco del Giocondo never received it. Leonardo was said to consider it a favorite and carried it with him. Eventually it wound up in the possession of the King of France, Francis I.
The "Mona Lisa" has been used in many, many ad campaigns, and in parodies of modern artists.
Below are two examples.

by Peter Max

Twice the painting has been damaged by vandals, but it was able to be restored.

1 sfumato:(noun) - A word, from the Latin (via Italian) fumare ("to smoke"), used to denote a painting technique. Sfumato means that there are no harsh outlines (as in a coloring book) present; areas blend into one another through miniscule brushstrokes, which makes for a rather hazy, albeit more realistic, depiction of light and color. An early, wonderful example of sfumato can be seen in Leonardo's Mona Lisa. (from Art Histort 101,

2 This bit of information is from an essay titled "On the Perfect Beauty of a Woman by Firenzuola, a 16th century writer.

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