Monday, August 5, 2013

Mona Lisa – An Artistic Glory or a Visual Riddle

There has always been something compelling about Mystery. Its charm is just like a witchcraft that gets you indulged in another world of existence. When art meets mystery through a medium of colours and shades, it creates an immortalized masterpiece exactly like Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa.

The mystique of the Mona Lisa’s expression and atmospheric illusionism ushers viewer to an enigmatic world. The woman in painting gazes the observer and welcomes him for a silent communication. Seeing Lisa’s faint smile, men forget that she isn't a woman of their fantasy, but thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini. And that’s what makes it the most visited, the most written and sung about piece of art in the entire world, today.

Mystery of Mona Lisa According to legends, the sitter, Lisa Gherardini was the wife of wealthy silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo from Florence (Italy). She was painted for her new home and to celebrate the birth of her second son. Leonardo da Vinci began painting her probably in 1504 in Florence. When Leonardo was invited by King of France; he took painting with him and continued refining it until 1517. Unfortunately, Mona Lisa never served its purpose and remained with Vinci for rest of his life. On his death, it was left among his pupils and assistant Salaì. Before Mona Lisa was put on permanent display at the Musée du Louvre (Paris) it toured from the wall of the Palace of Versailles to Napoleon’s bedroom.

Leonardo chose the gesture to project Lisa as a virtuous woman and faithful wife. But, was Lisa really virtuous or was she really married? In 2004, the National Research Council of Canada conducted a 3D infrared scan. Data from the scan revealed that Mona Lisa's hair seems pinned back into a chignon and covered with a veil (not visible to normal eyes). In the 16th century, hair hanging loosely down was the customary style of unmarried young women or prostitutes. There are several copies of the image in which the figure appears nude, which also led to speculation that they were copied from Leonardo original craft depicting Lisa naked, which supports either Lisa was the lover of Vinci or a prostitute. So what if Lisa was naked, who and why someone painted her in clothes and what happened to her, unfortunately not all of us have answers to such questions.

Heaven knows how many times, Mona Lisa's smile became a subject of many interpretations. And why shouldn’t it be? It is one of the most mysterious smiles, I ever experienced. The explanations range from scientific theories to Mona Lisa's true identity and feelings. The technology demonstration found the smile to be 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry, 1% neutral, and 0% surprised. I am sure, not every smile can carry off these many emotions at the same time.

Various alternatives to the identification of the sitter have been proposed. Some historians don’t even believe if sitter was Lisa Gherardini. Lillian Schwartz of Bell Labs suggests that the Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait. Perhaps, one day Vinci wanted to know how he would look like if he wears clothes of a woman. Frankly, the body statures of sitter don’t seem to be of a woman. To give more air to this doubt, when the sketch of Vinci is merged with the Mona Lisa using a computer, the features of the faces align perfectly.

Collectively what all these proposed theories make the Mona Lisa... a mystery that remained unsolved even after 500 years of survival.

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