Leonardo Da Vinci
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The Italian Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is well known for his genius and talent in the following areas:
- Scientific inventions
However, perhaps the best known of his works is found in the Mona Lisa's smile. The Mona Lisa's aloof smile has received a great amount of attention over the centuries since it was captured on canvas. Leonardo himself was so enthralled with this painting that he always carried it with him until eventually in France it was sold. Before analyzing her portrait, the question arises: who was the real Mona Lisa and what is to be learned about her true identity? That the artist took a break from the usual themes of religion to paint a smiling young woman is an indicator of his status as a true Renaissance man.
Born in 1479, was a "... young Florentine woman, Monna (or Mona) Lisa, who in 1495 married the well-known figure, Francesco del Giocondo, and thus came to be known as La Gioconda...". Estimates have Leonardo da Vinci painting Mona Lisa during what is know as his second Florentine period in 1503 to 1505. This would make the smiling Mona Lisa about twenty-five years old when she sat before the master artist. She died in 1528 at the age of forty-nine.
In the painting, what might strike some as odd today, is the total absence of eyebrows. Her "... eye-sockets run, without transition, into the exceedingly high forehead...". As one might expect from an attractive woman of twenty-five, Mona Lisa was up on the contemporary styles as it was fashionable for women to pluck their eyebrows. Concerning her attire, Mona Lisa is simply dressed in a pleated gown of green with yellow-brown sleeves that are not, as in earlier fashions, short and narrow, but reach to the wrist. Her neck is free of any jewelry, as are her hands. Apparently, Mona Lisa was a woman of humble taste. Yet, what the Renaissance artist caught was her showcase million-dollar smile. Leonardo da Vinci also masterfully married Mona Lisa's smiling eyes to the mouth.
The Renaissance was marked by an increasing focus on scientific investigation and the minimization of religion and although its influence was exhibited in a number of societies however it was most prolific in Italy. This influence was marked by a change in painting styles ushered in by the likes of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Donatello and, of course, Da Vinci.
The Renaissance was a period where society expressed less confidence in the laws of nature than it did on scientific fact, an attitude that would change during the Baroque period. Da Vinci's focus on pursuing a closer and often scientific examination of how things are constructed and work, especially the human anatomy, was carried over into his painting style, which is demonstrated best in his portraiture including works like "Mona Lisa", "Lady with and Ermine" and "Portrait of a Woman".
In looking at one of his most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa, da Vinci's brilliance in form and emotion can be witnessed. Leonardo himself was so enthralled with his painting of the Mona Lisa that he "... always carried it with him until eventually in France it was sold...". Before analyzing her portrait, the question arises: who was the real Mona Lisa and what is to be learned about her true identity? That the artist took a break from the usual themes of religion to paint a smiling young woman is an indicator of his status as a true Renaissance man.