A typical example of Lionardo's style of painting is the Mona Lisa with its perspective
We are going to illustrate Lionardo's diverse painting style. This style is something that
we today regard as a science, as opposed to that of many of his peers and modern painters.
We will focus on and discuss the landscape behind the Mona Lisa.
Much is written about the landscape and its two different perspectives. The landscape is
painted to the left and to the right, behind Mona Lisa and in two different levels. The
two different levels have always been viewed at from directly in front of the painting.
This was one of the mistakes that we will present in this conclusion. We will also refer
to Lionardos theory about "turnings"his
famous thesis that he prepared for publication, where he describes a method for capturing
human movements on the canvas.
In the Mona Lisa he experimented with the landscape. The two different parts of the
landscape are very often seen from the perspective of two separate levels, the higher
landscape and the lower landscape. The two perspectives have an active part to the
completeness of the painting, both on the lefthand- and righthand- sides of the landscape,
behind Mona Lisa. This was an experiment that Lionardo painted to bring the landscape in
line with Mona Lisa . This picture is yet another example of Lionardo's scientific
experiments and thoughts. If we all, spectators and analysts, try to contemplate
Lionardo's paintings in his own way, as described in Codex Madrid 1 and 2, then we will
realise that the landscape and the figures are in accordance with one another.
Writings about Lionardos fantasy landscape have nothing to do with the one in the Mona
Lisa. In general, he uses the landscape to give depth, perspective, and flexible movement
(1). As a result of this, many people think he painted a fantasy landscape in the Mona
Lisa where both roads and bridges are painted below two lakes. We cannot see any water
under the bridge but it's not so unusual to build a bridge over a road or a waterway where
water will only rarely pass.
On closer examination of the painting and its landscape it can be seen that the time of
year is towards the end of summer when lakes and watercourse are almost dry (2). The
landscape behind Mona Lisa is the Alps. One can determine the time of year due to the fact
that no snow is seen and by studying the plantlife. This typifies all of Lionardos
paintings. The Mona Lisa also has the special light of dawn, which occurs at the end of
summer. He loved this light and used it in all his paintings. When he painted the alpine
landscape he had to compromise and lower the artistic level to a more fantastical
landscape, in exchange for "turnings".
This is a reason for why many people misinterpret Lionardo. The landscape was made
unrealistic to give more power and movement to the Mona Lisa.
Now the question; who was Mona Lisa? Many link the painting " La Gioconda" to
the Mona Lisa. It is possible the portrait is of the wealthy shopkeeper, Francesco del
Gioconda's mistress, entitled "La Gioconda", meaning Mona Lisa. What is the
destiny of this painting? Has it been lost? We do not dispute the fact that Lionardo made
this painting, but we do not believe it has any connections to the Mona Lisa that can be
found in the Louvre. This becomes apparent on closer examination.
The Mona Lisa that we all know so well is without any doubt the mother of Lionardo - the
woman he praised so highly. Vasari described a painting by Lionardo, which was an order
from the shopkeeper del Giocondo to portray his young mistress "Lisa di Antonio Maria
di Noldo Gherardini". Vasari described the features of a young and beautiful woman -
her eyebrows, eyelashes, and skin. In the Mona Lisa, which we believe to be Lionardo´s
mother, the figure has neither eyebrows nor eyelashes. Her eyes look sad and her smile a
bit scornful - not the expression of a young woman. Those who know Lionardo´s
relationship with his mother better understand the expression in the painting. Lionardo
had few meetings with Catharina, his biological mother, during his youth but still he paid
for her an expensive funeral. She felt alienated from his upbringing but still they had a
There is also a nude painting of an expressionless and unrealistic Mona Lisa - the painter
of which is unknown. Some have tried to ascribe this to the Lionardo school, but should
Lionardo paint his mother naked? It is known through writings that Lionardo always took
the Mona Lisa with him on his travels.
By way of conclusion we will talk a little about the French King Frans I and his welcoming
of Lionardo at the royal court. The French King built Lionardo a small castle nearby his
own where he could get the attention and treatment he required during his last years of
illness. This explains why the Mona Lisa is still in France and in the Louvre. The King
highly respected and admired Lionardo and realised his greatness and talent. He felt
honoured to be in the presence of Lionardo. The Mona Lisa became an admired picture, which
was always dear to them - the most important picture for them both.
Returning to those who believe the Mona Lisa to be "La Gioconda" - should really
the French King have such high regud for a painting of Francesco del Gioconda's mistress?
Is it not more likely that "our mother" as both the King and Lionardo called the
painting is portraying Lionardos mother? This painting was part of their souls and it is
almost absurd to relate it to "La Gioconda". Would Lionardo pay so much
attention to a painting of a shopkeeper's mistress during the last years of his life? This
sounds absurd, both from human and physcological aspects.
(1) Right and left of the people in the picture.
(2) We know that Lionardo painted the Mona Lisa for a period of four years.
Author : Rizah Kulenovic