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These days, most experts agree that the Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, wife of a Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo (hence the name by which she is known in Italy and France, La Gioconda, or La Joconde).
When she sat for Leonardo da Vinci, in around 1503, she was about 24 years old.
Her contrapposto pose – with the body angled away from the viewer, head turned forward – was widely admired and copied by Leonardo’s contemporaries.
And his sfumato technique, where sharp edges are blurred to create an uncannily lifelike effect.
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In 2010, Silvano Vinceti, chairman of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, claimed to have discerned letters minutely painted on Mona Lisa’s eyes: L and V (Leonardo da Vinci’s initials) in the right eye, and perhaps C, E or B in the left.
The Louvre responded that Vin...
The Mona Lisa’s background landscape seems unreal, but the bridge might be one that Leonardo knew.
It is usually said to be Ponte Buriano in Tuscany, but in 2011, a researcher claimed it depicts the Bobbio Bridge over the Trebbia, which was washed away in a flood in 1472.
In 2000, scientists at Harvard University suggested a neurological explanation for Mona Lisa’s elusive smile.
When a viewer looks at her eyes, the mouth is in peripheral vision, which sees in black and white. This accentuates the shadows at the corners of her mouth, making the smile seem b...
Leonardo da Vinci worked on the painting for four years, and possibly at intervals after that. He always took it with him when he travelled, and he never signed or dated it.
The picture went with him when, towards the end of his life, he moved to France.
At that time, it was not seen...
The distant, dreamlike vista behind Mona Lisa’s head seems to be higher on the right-hand side than on the left. It is hard to see how the landscape would join up.
This is subliminally unsettling: Mona Lisa appears taller, more erect, when one’s gaze drifts to the left than when it is on t...
An Italian doctor looked at the swelling around her eyes and diagnosed excess cholesterol in her diet. Other conditions include facial paralysis, deafness, even syphilis.
It has been suggested that look of contentment on her face indicates she is pregnant.
Dentists have also posite...
Over the past century, it has been proposed that Mona Lisa was a noblewoman – Isabella d’Este, Marquise of Mantua, or Costanza d’Avalos, Duchess of Francavilla.
Others have stared at that unsettling visage and seen the face of a man – Leonardo da Vinci himself, or...
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