The Mona Lisa by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci is one of the most visited, written about, sung about, and talked about paintings of all time. In the following pages I will give a detailed description of the painting, the historical context surrounding it’s inception, and an in-depth comparison between Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait.
The Mona Lisa (Fig. 01) is a 16th century oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The subject who is commonly believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florence businessman, is seated in a relaxed three-quarter pose with her hands gently placed one on top of the other.
While a quick glance at the painting reveals a soft, gentle female form with a background of intriguing landscape, further study introduces an added layer of mystery. The way the woman glances slightly to the side as well as her small smile makes viewers feel that she knows some secret. Yet, at the same time, she appears to be a very kind, friendly and approachable.
By using oil paints, Leonardo was able to successfully create a lifelike painting. Since the paints dried very slowly he had time to mix and change all his colors until everything was the correct hue to achieve perfection. The pallet of colors chosen by Leonardo gives a striking contrast between the light face, dark garments, and medium background. By having such strong contrast the viewer is first directed to the face and hands before moving through the whole painting. It also allows definition between areas of the painting (hair and forehead, sleeves and hands, chin and neck, etc…) without having a direct, harsh line.
The curves in the woman’s sleeves and shoulder are repeated in the background trees and road, while the vertical...
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...discovered, the background had been painted black, but when the painting was cleaned scientific analysis revealed that the copy was most likely painted by another artist who say beside Leonardo and copied his work brush-stroke by brush-stroke. (SmartHistory.com) In 2012 Museum officials announced that “It was almost certainly painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci's apprentices alongside the master himself as he did the original.” (Parveen)
According to Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin, "The entire history of portraiture afterwards depends on the Mona Lisa. If you look at all the other portraits – not only of the Italian Renaissance, but also of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries – if you look at Picasso, at everyone you want to name, all of them were inspired by this painting. Thus it is sort of the root, almost, of occidental portrait painting." (PBS.org)