Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’

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The Mona Lisa, only the best known, the most visited and the most written about work of art in the world, is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. It is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre.

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The Mona Lisa is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. However, is it to be believed that Da Vinci took the completed portrait to France rather than giving it to the person who commissioned it. It was eventually returned to Italy by Leonardo’s student and heir Salai. The Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait.

The figure is shown in half-length, from the head to the waist, sitting in a chair whose arm is resting on balusters. She is resting her left arm on the arm of the chair, which is placed in front of a loggia. Lisa has her right hand resting on her left. Leonardo chose this gesture rather than a wedding ring to depict Lisa as a virtuous woman and faithful wife.

The Mona Lisa’s famous smile represents a visual 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.

In late 2005, researchers from the University of Amsterdam ran the painting’s image through “emotion recognition” computer software. The technology demonstration found the smile to be 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry, less than 1% neutral, and 0% surprised.

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