Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of his most famous works and arguably the world’s most famous portrait.
The subject of the painting is still an object of scholarly debate. In his biography of Da Vinci, Giorgio Vasari argued that she was the wife of a wealthy Florentine, Francesco del Giocondo. Hence the name Mona Lisa (which is Italian for “my lady Lisa”).
However, despite the uncertainty of the individual, Da Vinci’s portrait of the lady is very convincing. Unlike many earlier portraits, this one does not depict wealth and status. Mona Lisa does not hold any attribute associated with displays of wealth and status. She sits calmly, with her hands folded in front of her, and gently and subtly smiles at the viewer. Her gaze is directed at the viewer but does her eyes do not directly meet the viewer’s eyes as it was disrespectful for a woman to look directly into a man’s eyes during Renaissance times. Mona Lisa is a new kind of portrait, focusing more on the personality of the sitter and using it to psychologically engage the viewer.
This painting is darker today than it was when Da Vinci painted it. However, his application of aerial perspective in the background through the use of chiaroscuro and sfumato is still apparent (look at the blurry and smoky landscape behind Mona Lisa). The background, in fact, is one of the appeals of Mona Lisa. Unlike traditional interior portraits, Mona Lisa is set against an outdoors background. The peaceful natural landscape, with bridges and roads, seems to lead to nowhere, which is reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks.
Thus, the focus on the sitter’s personality, the psychological engagement of the viewer, the effective use of aerial perspective, and the intriguing natural landscape in the background help make Mona Lisa one of the most recognized portraits ever.
Below are some parodies of this famous portrait…