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Karon Melillo DeVega
Painting - Oil On Poplar Panel
by Leonardo da Vinci c.1503-1506
"The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde) is a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world."
The painting, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a poplar panel, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506, although Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris since 1797. The ambiguity of the subject's expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modeling of forms and the atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work.
The title of the painting that is known in English as Mona Lisa stems from a description by Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, who wrote "Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife." Mona in Italian is a polite form of address originating as ma donna - similar to Ma'am, Madam, or my lady in English. This became madonna, and its contraction mona. The title of the painting, though traditionally spelled "Mona" (as used by Vasari), is also commonly spelled in modern Italian as Monna Lisa, but this is rare in English.
Vasari's account of the Mona Lisa comes from his biography of Leonardo published in 1550, 31 years after the artist's death, and which has long been the best known source of information on the provenance of the work and identity of the sitter. Leonardo's assistant Salaì, at his death in 1525, owned a portrait which in his personal papers was named la Gioconda, a painting bequeathed to him by Leonardo. That Leonardo painted such a work, and its date, were confirmed in 2005 when a scholar at Heidelberg University discovered a margin note in a volume written by Roman philosopher Cicero printed in 1477. The margin note had been written by Leonardo's contemporary Agostino Vespucci, and likened Leonardo to renowned Greek painter Apelles, who is mentioned in the text. The note states that Leonardo was at that time working on a painting of Lisa del Giocondo, and is dated October 1503.
The sitter, Lisa del Giocondo, was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany, and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is thought to have been commissioned for their new home, and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea. The Italian name for the painting, La Gioconda, means "jocund" ("happy" or "jovial"), or literally "the jocund one", a pun on the feminine form of the sitter's married name Giocondo. In French, the title La Joconde has the same meaning.
Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy. Although the Louvre states that it was "doubtless painted painted between 1503 and 1506", the art historian Martin Kemp says there is some difficulty in confirming the actual dates with certainty. According to Leonardo's contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, "after he had lingered over it four years, [he] left it unfinished". Leonardo, later in his life, is said to have regretted "never having completed a single work".
In 1516 Leonardo was invited by King François I to work at the Clos Lucé near the king's castle in Amboise. It is believed that he took the Mona Lisa with him and continued to work after he moved to France. Art historian Carmen C. Bambach has concluded that da Vinci probably continued refining the work until 1516 or 1517.
On his death the painting was inherited, among other works, by his pupil and assistant Salaì. The king bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Palace of Fontainebleau, where it remained until given to Louis XIV. Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, but spent a brief period in the bedroom of Napoleon in the Tuileries Palace.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870 - 1871) it was moved from the Louvre to the Brest Arsenal. During World War II, the painting was again removed from the Louvre and taken safely, first to Château d'Amboise, then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey and Château de Chambord, then finally to the Ingres Museum in Montauban.
Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting. Her folded hands form the front corner of the pyramid. Her breast, neck and face glow in the same light that models her hands. The light gives the variety of living surfaces an underlying geometry of spheres and circles. Leonardo referred to a seemingly simple formula for seated female figure: the images of seated Madonna, which were widespread at the time. He effectively modified this formula in order to create the visual impression of distance between the sitter and the observer. The armrest of the chair functions as a dividing element between Mona Lisa and the viewer.
The woman sits markedly upright with her arms folded, which is also a sign of her reserved posture. Only her gaze is fixed on the observer and seems to welcome them to this silent communication. Since the brightly lit face is practically framed with various much darker elements (hair, veil, shadows), the observer's attraction to it is brought to even greater extent. The woman appears alive to an unusual measure, which Leonardo achieved by his new method not to draw the outlines, "mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes" (Gombrich), as firmly as that had been the use, before (sfumato). There is no indication of an intimate dialogue between the woman and the observer as is the case in the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Louvre) painted by Raphael about ten years later, and undoubtedly influenced by the work.
The painting was among the first portraits to depict the sitter before an imaginary landscape and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use aerial perspective. The enigmatic woman is portrayed seated in what appears to be an open loggia with dark pillar bases on either side. Behind her a vast landscape recedes to icy mountains. Winding paths and a distant bridge give only the slightest indications of human presence. The sensuous curves of the woman's hair and clothing are echoed in the undulating imaginary valleys and rivers behind her. The blurred outlines, graceful figure, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and overall feeling of calm are characteristic of Leonardo's style. Owing to the expressive synthesis that Leonardo achieved between sitter and landscape it is arguable whether Mona Lisa should be considered as a traditional portrait, for it represents an ideal rather than a real woman. The sense of overall harmony achieved in the painting - especially apparent in the sitter's faint smile - reflects the idea of a link connecting humanity and nature.
Mona Lisa has no clearly visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck these hairs, as they were considered unsightly. In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte announced that his ultra high resolution scans of the painting provide evidence that Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyelashes and with better visible eyebrows, but that these had gradually disappeared over time, perhaps as a result of overcleaning. For modern viewers the nearly missing eyebrows add to the slightly abstract quality of the face."
(description quote source: wikipedia.org)
Color Balance adjustments and levels correction done by
Karon Melillo DeVega to correct tones and yellowing of photo image in my attempt to restore the image as closely as possible to the original painting.
July 6th, 2013
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