“Portrait of Lisa Geraldine, wife of Francesco Del Giaconda….” That might not get a layman real excited, even if some Renaissance man executed it. Neither would that layman get worked up about it, knowing further that the painter of this non-creatively titled painting was in reality a scientist & a mathematician, and was more famous for his architectural drawings than his portraits. Bias against the painting would build up further if he knew that this was one of the artist’s “minor” works, which he did for earning a living. Who would want to look at some rich man’s wife sitting in the front of an imaginary landscape? Who would want to buy such a boring work? Who would indeed? Unless that painting was known as “The Mona Lisa” and its painter was none other than Leonardo da Vinci, the teacher of the very famous Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo.
Considering that Leonardo was not quite an oil paint maestro and his expertise lied actually in science and mathematics, one tends to forget that often great artists are shadowed by their own talents. So famous was da Vinci in his times for his scientific inventions, that painting was not really his forte. The surprising part was the apparent disdain with which Leonardo treated painting. He painted, repainted, mutilated, and rebuilt most of his paintings, despite them being excellent classics that ranged from the likes of “Last Supper” to the “Virgin of the Rocks.” Leonardo’s obstinate urge to experiment with different techniques led to total disasters and many of his creations crumbled in his lifetime only. Owing to the usually messed up treatment of Leonardo, only few of his paintings survived to the level that no more than fifteen could be traced today.
Leonardo lived in Italy in the mid of fifteenth century and created a majority of his works on commission from religious trusts. Mona Lisa was a personal commission, Leonardo though gave it a religious touch by posing her as the Virgin Mary, according to the then prevailing fashion. The painting’s subject, “Mona Lisa” is as ordinary as it sounds; it is the portrait and the painter’s mystery motives that intrigue. The real mastery of da Vinci lies in creating a classical yet somewhat surreal atmosphere around this woman that has tickled many art lovers. Many questions have been raised from time to time such as, “Is she real?” “Why is the background imaginary?” “Why are her eyebrows plucked?” “Is “she” a man?” “Are there any hidden codes in the painting?” “Why the positioning is in a particular way?” In addition, the views of millions of conspiracy theorists have made the painting all the more enigmatic. As mentioned earlier also, all this guesswork is natural considering the fact that da Vinci was a man who created puzzles beyond the intelligence of his times.
“Mona Lisa” is a classic textbook framework of portrait painting. The proportion and the positioning of each element used in this portrait were aesthetically so strong that they became a sort of “industry standards.” If not for anything but this, da Vinci deserves all that he has been revered for, including the very wonderful Mona Lisa.