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Mona Lisa


A typical example of Lionardo's style of painting is the Mona Lisa with its perspective and "turnings". 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.

Mona Lisa left



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.

Mona Lisa right


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 strong bond.

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

Mona Lisa


Mona Lisa
The portrait of Catharina, Lionardo´s biological mother


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