“Mona Lisa:” Did you know?
- In 2012, an important copy of “Mona Lisa” was discovered in the collection of the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Once the painting was cleaned, scientific analysis revealed that it was likely painted by a student who sat right next to da Vinci and copied the artist’s work, brushstroke by brushstroke, as the master himself painted. The copy gives us an idea of what “Mona Lisa” might look like if layers of yellowed varnish were removed from the original.
- “Mona Lisa” is likely a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo. This explains why the painting is also known as “La Gioconda.” For some reason, da Vinci never delivered the portrait to its patron; instead, the artist kept it.
No, this isn’t da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” all cleaned up. It’s a version by a student, who sat by the master’s side as he painted the original. See it at the Prado in Madrid.
“Mona Lisa” is special in that her eyes were painted in such a way that they appear to follow you when you move around the painting. You can read more about the phenomenon in this article, which explains the complex geometry behind it.
- “Mona Lisa” is, of course, also famous for an optical illusion called “the mysterious smile.” The illusion is created when you view “Mona Lisa” with your peripheral vision. Look at her eyes, and she appears to be smiling; shift your focus to her lips, and the smile disappears. This happens because of shadows created by the sfumato technique, which da Vinci perfected.
- In late 2005, Dutch researchers from the University of Amsterdam ran the painting’s image through “emotion recognition” software developed in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The technology found Mona Lisa’s smile to be 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful, 2 percent angry, less than 1 percent neutral, and 0 percent surprised. (So, you didn’t think science had a place in the fine arts?)
Interested in viewing “Mona Lisa” for yourself? Contact Mariana Tosic, our Europe expert, for information about a visit to the Louvre in Paris, where the painting hangs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-490-8008 for details.
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