The Story Behind ‘Mona Lisa’ : Who Was Lisa?

Artists die, art lives. One such art that breathes even today in the famous painting ‘Mona Lisa’.

The Mona Lisa is a painting that is very mysterious. Painted by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci, this is a half-portrait of Lisa del Giocondo Gherardini. As per history, this portrait was commissioned by her husband. She was a part of the Gherardini family of Italy. It was only in 2005 that the model in the painting was identified. But very little is known of her life. She was born on June 15, 1479, in Florence. It is believed that she was born into a very wealthy Gherardini family to Antonmaria di Noldo Gherardini and Lucrezia del Caccia.

On 5 March 1495, Lisa married Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, a modestly successful cloth and silk merchant, becoming his third wife at age 15. Lisa’s dowry was 170 florins and the San Silvestro farm near her family’s country home, a sign that the Gherardini family was not wealthy at the time and reason to think she and her husband loved each other. She had five children named Piero, Camilla, Andrea, Giocondo, and Marietta.

Lisa spent her last days Florence’s Saint Orsola convent at and died at the age of 63 in July 1542.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

ABOUT THE PAINTING

The painting dates back to 1550. It is believed that Da Vinci took up this commission due to financial issues but he did not complete it immediately. Also, the painting was never delivered to the family and travelled with Da Vinci wherever he went.

Many scholars across the world have tried to know more about Lisa by interpreting the painting. As per their interpretations, Lisa’s dark clothes symbolise her high status (Spanish influenced fashion) and not mourning. The resting of her right hand over her left symbolise that she was a faithful wife. The size of the portrait is huge that speaks a lot about Francesco and Lisa’s desire for extravagance. The portrait may have been painted to mark one of two events – either when Francesco del Giocondo and his wife bought their own house in 1503, or when their second son, Andrea, was born in December 1502 after the death of a daughter in 1499.

In 2005, an expert at the University Library of Heidelberg discovered a margin note in the library’s collection that established with certainty the traditional view that the sitter was Lisa. The note, written by Agostino Vespucci in 1503, states that Leonardo was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

The painting has been in France since the 16th century and is the property of the people. Scores of people visit the Louvre in Paris every year to have a look at this extremely famous painting.

THE SMILE

The most famous and notable aspect of this painting has been Mona Lisa’s smile. Da Vinci highlighted her smile in the painting giving the idea of happiness – which is explained by the fact that the Italian word ‘gioconda’ means happy, delightful and pleasant.

“The Mona Lisa’s famous smile represents the sitter in the same way that the juniper branches represent Ginevra Benci and the ermine represents Cecilia Gallerani in their portraits, in Washington and Krakow respectively. It is a visual representation of the idea of happiness suggested by the word “gioconda” in Italian. Leonardo made this notion of happiness the central motif of the portrait: it is this notion which makes the work such an ideal. The nature of the landscape also plays a role. The middle distance, on the same level as the sitter’s chest, is in warm colors. Men live in this space: there is a winding road and a bridge. This space represents the transition between the space of the sitter and the far distance, where the landscape becomes a wild and uninhabited space of rocks and water which stretches to the horizon, which Leonardo has cleverly drawn at the level of the sitter’s eyes.” States an article by Cécile Scailliérez on the website of the Louvre.

Mona Lisa is an unforgettable work of art that shall remain etched in history forever.

Preview Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (musee de Louvre)/ Michel Urtado

Heer Khant
Heer Khant

Traveller | Writer | Photographer | Maverick | Social Worker | Lawyer | A freedom-loving woman for whom words are like wings to her soul. She believes in aliens, hates boundaries and lives like the first human on Earth.

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