Why Mona Lisa is so Famous?
Mona Lisa is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished pieces of painted artwork all over the world. Leonardo Da Vinci, the famous Italian artist, painted it between 1504 and 1519. This painting depicts a half body commission for a woman whose name is Lisa Gherardini. It is considered to be the most well-known, discussed, and studied piece of artwork ever known. The facial expression of the woman has given rise to thousand debates for centuries as her face stays especially mysterious in the portrait. Commissioned in Italy in the beginning, it is now at home in the French Republic, exposed in the Louvre in Paris.
There is a variety of reasons, which bring Mona Lisa such fame. One of the causes for such prominence, of course, is the author of the masterpiece. Leonardo Da Vinci is probably the most acknowledged artist in the world. He was not only an excellent artist; he was also famous as a fine doctor, inventor, and scientist. His study of the human form originated in the study of actual human corpses.
The artist’s ability to explore the human as a biological creature helps him to draw it more meticulously than any other artist of his time. Whilst one esteemed the Mona Lisa as the greatest painting of all times, everybody knows her author for his ability to draw and to paint. Mainly because of his particularly experimental style of art and the habit of procrastination, there is only a fistful of Da Vinci’s works.
Among 6,000 paintings in the Louvre, the Mona Lisa attracts the attention of ninety nine percent of visitors. Almost all of them gaze at the painting for more than three minutes; thus, some of them leave the painting with a sign of disappointment on the face. This painting stays alongside with the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower and even nowadays this rather small painting is one of the most disputed and mysterious piece of artwork in the world.
The name of the painting comes from the name of its model, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, Lisa Gherardini, a prominent merchant businessman in Italy. By saying Mona, artist means ‘my lady’. The probable time of the painting creation fluctuates between 1503 and1509 according to art historians. In 1516, the King of France decided to buy it. Only after the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre. The popularity of the painting rises in the second half of the 19th century owing to the Symbolist movement. The painting becomes the embodiment of a feminine mystique. In 1911, Eduardo de Valfierno stole it from the Louvre and, in two years, Mona Lisa obtained its place again.
In order to clear up the significance of this painting, it is rather important to examine its art features, artist’s idea and consider the opinion of art historians who have been engaged in the study of Mona Lisa for many years. The Giaconda is an oil painting made on the surface of a cottonwood board. Most paintings of that time were appointed as oil on canvas; however, the cottonwood board became a part of contribution to the absolute fame and uniqueness of the painting. Mona Lisa has come through almost six centuries without any restoration, owing to the oil medium used for the image. It is one of the features of this piece of art, taking into consideration the period of its creation.
Leonardo puts his subject in the midst of the painting. In order to center her, he uses a pyramid design. The woman folds her hands in the form of a pyramid. The artist has also used the same glowing light for her face neck and breast. In his art mastership, lighting plays an important role as it helps him to create different geometric shapes, which comprise the painting. A rather simple and usual form of the painting, a variant of the Seated Madonna, was rather popular for portraits of those times.
The lighter background landscape makes a contrast with the softened dark colors of the subject’s dress and hair. The face and hands of Mona are notable because of luminescent quality. Not every eye will focus on such details as the winding lines of the roads, repetitious lines on the sleeves of the woman’s dress, the ring-shaped lines of trees, and the angular triangles of the mountains. Thus, probably the greatest significance still has the acute and sophisticated curve of the Mona’s mouth. This painting does not include any sharp outlines. Leonardo initiated sfumato art style. This technique allows colors to become soft, blend them progressively, and create blurry outlines. The forms in his painting seem to melt and fuse leaving no definite edges. This makes his works unique and splendid (Lichfield, 2005).
Artists of the Renaissance period had a tendency to depict scenes of the Bible, and this fact distinguishes them from other periods of art history. Thus, Da Vinci depicts the sitting woman with anatomically correct features, making the painting identifiable among other paintings of the period. The artist has used shadowing techniques at the corners of Mona’s lips and eyes that bring her appallingly realistic appearance and look of pleasure. Mona Lisa is gazing at the observers with a mysterious charming smile. Donald Sassoon (2001), the British historian, tracing the origins of the Mona Lisa uniqueness for several centuries, admitted: the smile is important because it's quite rare for renaissance paintings to have smiles, usually they are serious, but there are lots of smiles in the renaissance, it's not such an extraordinary special thing. (p.167)
Da Vinci tries to hold the sitter and the observer by the creation of the sense of distance between them, mostly employing the chair on which she rests. Everything about her posture pronounces engagement and peacefulness. Thus, model’s eyes noiselessly meet the gaze of the visitor, alluring the viewer into her eye line. The dark colors and shades around her face emphasize the light of her face and the amusement it leaves. The direction of her eyes and her secret smile produce the great intrigue and mystery. Only the real master of painting could create such eyes, which seem to follow you when you move across the room looking into their depth. In general, the painting has some kind of natural attraction, but the distance between the observer and sitter created by Leonardo largely contrasts this attraction.
For a long time, one has marked the landscape of the painting as the first example of portrait on landscape. An immense landscape is extended towards an icy mountain line. The curves of the sitter’s hair together with her wardrobe imitate the waves of landscape. The portrait of Mona Lisa is regarded to be the depiction of an ideal. The prominent smile and the distinct features of the model’s mouth complement the natural harmony between the model and the landscape.
For centuries, scientists, art historians, and psychologists have attempted to unravel the mystery of Mona Lisa, putting forward thousands of theories concerning the person depicted and meaning of her mystique smile. Freud, as the prominent psychologist, has carried out the psychological analysis of Leonardo Da Vinci’s personality throughout his paintings. Considering Mona Lisa, he emphasizes a feature of it, which attracts amusement: “In the strangely beautiful face of the Florentine Mona Lisa del Giocondo it has produced the most powerful and confusing effect on whoever looks at it” (Freud, 1964, p. 58).
Kenneth Clark, an art historian, in one of his works stated that Mona Lisa is a “supreme example of perfection”. In his studies, he examined carefully the structure, background, and artist’s basic intention of this image. He admitted the perfection of colors, tones, and shades of the painting, which overwhelm observers mostly in strong daylight. Clark, captivated by its beauty, admires artist mastery of colors and form unity: “The majesty and finality of the pose, the uncanny delicacy with which light passes over the smooth white egg-shell face, one had anticipated. However, the beautiful color is a surprise. The cloak is a rich and subtle grey, quite blue in certain places, gradated to a darker tone” (Kenneth, 1973, p. 147).
The professor of Harvard University, Margaret Livingstone tries to reveal the secret of Mona Lisa’s mystique smile. She states that the smile becomes clearly visible when observer stares at other parts of the painting. She has also noticed that it disappears when somebody looks at it, owing to the way the human eye works out visual information. Thus, the painting will be more effective when an observer looks at it peripherally (Austen, 2006).
Leonardo Da Vinci has created a painting that is one of the most discussed, talked about, and argued. It possesses natural attraction, which draws glances of thousands of Louvre visitors every day. It is obvious that Mona Lisa is a masterpiece of all times and probably no one is able to reveal the secret of her smile.