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La Gioconda – The Masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci

By Karmen Preda, Artistic Designer of LiveOnlineYoga.com

mona-lisaNo matter from how many angles we contemplate the famous La Gioconda of Leonardo – maybe the most famous painting of the world – its historical, mystical, symbolic meanings and painting technique can never be exhausted.

This portrait full of mystery and secrets was done on a poplar wood support of 77/53 cm size. It is the most famous work of Leonardo da Vinci.

The original painting was in a larger size; Mona Lisa was flanked by two pillars on her right and left that later on were cut. This is the reason why we can't realize immediately Mona Lisa was sitting on a porch. Many other details are not visible today as they were destroyed by the time; many areas of the painting suffered a make-over and sometimes some elements were considered non-essential so the new paint covered them.

Yet the characteristic elements of this famous work exist still. They are the very detailed background which disappears into the mist (the painting technique is known under the name of "sfumato"), the perfect execution of the central figure and the hypnotizing smile of her especially.

Why did Leonardo created this work is a question that still triggers countless controversies. Most probably one of the important nobles from Florence, Italy, Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi del Giocondo ordered Leonardo a portrait of his third wife, Lisa di Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini. The artist began his work in 1503 when Lisa was at the age of 24.

He worked at this portrait for the next four years. When Leonardo left Florence in 1507 he didn't sell the painting to his customer and kept it for himself. Some researchers believe he refused to deliver the order because the work was not finished; others say Leonardo considered Mona Lisa too valuable for selling. In 1516 Leonardo arrived in France and in his luggage he had Mona Lisa. Here he sold the painting to the king who took the painting to the castle Amboise.

mus-e-du-louvre-mona-lisaThe work then reached to Fontainbleau, Paris, Versailles and then in the collection of Ludovic the XIV. After the French Revolution the work arrived at Louvre; later on Napoleon took from here and placed it into his bedroom. After Napoleon left in exile, Mona Lisa returned to Louvre.

On 21st Aug 1911 Mona Lisa was stolen by an Italian and it showed up again in Florence two years later. After several exhibitions it was brought back in Paris. In 1956 a man attempted to destroy the lower part of the painting with acid but he succeeded only partially. The restoration lasted many years. In the '60 – '70 the work was exhibited in New York, Tokyo and Moscow. Today Mona Lisa rests behind a bulletproof glass at Louvre, Paris as the international conventions forbid any transportation to another location or state.

"The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the history of art and continues to inspire reproduction, parody, scientific theory, and more. In 2003-2006 we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the painting which now has its own room at the Louvre. The painting has achieved celebrity status and is continually appearing as subject of news articles around the globe." "The Mona Lisa is Leonardo's representation of life and the universe, not of a particular person. It is both feminine and masculine, dark and light, yin and yang". This is what Korie Marshall, 32, of Nova Scotia, Canada concluded in posting on Diane Shipley DeCillis's website.

mash-upWhile the Gioconda identity was debated for centuries, some scholars suggested da Vinci could had portrayed himself as a woman given his delight for riddles.


In December 2005 The New Scientist magazine revealed the results of a study based on the analysis of a program recognizing the emotions on a human face. According to the obtained data Mona Lisa was 83% happy. It is interesting to notice that the word Gioconda could derive from the Latin "jucundus" which means "serene" or "happy".

Due to the X rays several layers of varnish were virtually suppressed as they altered the painting accuracy and the original colors were recomposed. At this moment the resembling between the painting techniques and Leonardo's principles presented in his painting treaty stroked. During the time Leonardo was painting La Gioconda he transposed into theory his observations about colors, light, gaze; he abandoned the geometrical perspective and made the leap to the atmospherically perspective. The first perspective still persists of course between the two pillars on each side of the painting.

zambetulThat which earlier was a simple supposition now became a certainty: in order to get the imponderability of carnation Leonardo adopted the glacis technique (a clear and transparent paint applied on a denser paint serving to the representation of the clear-obscure) like the primitive Flemish. He used a fine brush, a drop of oil and added some red and brown pigments and with small touches he created the shadows and warmed the cold colors. This is the way he succeeded to suggest the transparency of the skin – a transparency which perfectly corresponds to the light that crosses the entire Universe.

This is the famous sfumato technique or the master transparency effect. In other words it is an unique way for painting "a present absence". Maybe this is the real secret of Gioconda smile and also the supreme mystery of the Earth, presence of the Sun and its light, the revealed secret of our view upon things. Like a great scientist Leonardo succeeds by the means of perception to access a high level of explaining the light: not with numbers but a brush.

 

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