Monday, February 28, 2011

Mystery behind Mona Lisa painitng



Who was Mona Lisa?

Lisa del Giocondo (née Gherardini; 15 June 1479 – 15 July 1542, or c. 1551), also known as Lisa Gherardini, Lisa di Antonio Maria (or Antonmaria) Gherardini, La Gioconda, and Mona Lisa, was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany in Italy. Her name was given to Mona Lisa, her portrait commissioned by her husband and painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance.
Little is known about Lisa's life. Born in Florence and married as a teenager to a cloth and silk merchant who later became a local official, she was mother to six children and led what is thought to have been a comfortable and ordinary middle-class life. Lisa outlived her husband, who was considerably her senior.
At this stage Lisa would have been over twenty-four years of age, by the standards of the time she was not in any way considered particularly beautiful, though Leonardo saw certain qualities which have now made her the most heavily insured woman in history.
Centuries after Lisa's death, Mona Lisa became the world's most famous painting and took on a life separate from Lisa, the woman. Speculation by scholars and hobbyists made the work of art a globally recognized icon and an object of commercialization.

The painting and the background:-

In the foreground, there is a woman sitting on a chair. Her right hand is placed on her left wrist and her left hand is gripping the arm of the chair on which she is sitting. Her torso is turned towards us, though her chair is parallel to the picture. Her torso and face might be facing the viewer, but her eyes are looking at something at the viewer's right, as though the model was distracted by something. Nevertheless, there is something enticing about her facial expression.
When the viewer is admiring the Mona Lisa, the first thing that he or she usually notices is her smile, which seems strange and unfathomable. We might never fully understand the true meaning of this facial expression. Though art historians have found out how Leonardo was able to create the smile. Leonardo created it by "barely raising the corner of the mouth.” Her dress, which seems to be plain, is black and her hair falls down to her shoulders. She isn't wearing any jewelry. Though the viewer doesn't see it, she seems to be sitting on a balcony. Behind her, Leonardo has painted "a complex, strange and distant landscape." When the Mona Lisa was first painted, the viewers could see two columns, one on each side of the model. Unfortunately, these columns were cut, after Leonardo's death. Though before the painting was cut, the columns helped reveal more of the edge of the balcony.
Mona Lisa's hair is smooth with only the covering of a black veil, hands are free of rings or bracelets and nothing adorns her neck. There are small intricate loops across the neckline of her dress; such was Leonardo's interest in codes that many people have searched in vain for a message in these loops. This painting went against all the trends of the time and is a perfect example of how Leonardo never followed traditions. He abandoned the usual poses, which had subjects shown as stiff and upright, replacing this with a relaxed sitter, her beautifully painted hands resting easily on the arm of her chair. 


Starting of the brilliant painting:-

Historians agree that Leonardo commenced the painting of Mona Lisa in 1503, working on it for approximately four years and keeping it himself for some years after. Supposedly this was because Mona Lisa was Leonardo's favorite painting and he was loathe to part with it, however it may also have been because the painting was unfinished. Leonardo had no income during the spring of 1503, which may in part explain his interest in a private portrait. But later that year, he most likely had to delay his work on Mona Lisa when he received payment for starting The Battle of Anghiari, which was a more valuable commission and one he was contracted to complete by February 1505. Later, he is thought to have continued to work on Mona Lisa for three years after he moved to France and to have finished it shortly before he died in 1519. Leonardo took the painting from Italy to France in 1516 when King François I invited the painter to work at the Clos Lucé near the king's castle in Amboise. In 1506 Leonardo considered the portrait unfinished. He was not paid for the work and did not deliver it to his client. The artist's paintings traveled with him throughout his life, and he may have completed Mona Lisa many years later in France,in one estimation by 1516.
Whatever the reason, much later it was sold to the King of France for four thousand gold crowns. The world has talked about it ever since. After the revolution in France the painting was transferred to the Louvre. Napoleon took possession of it using the panel to decorate his bedroom. Upon his banishment from France Mona Lisa once more returned to the care of the Louvre. What is certain is that the painting was never passed onto the rightful owner, that being the man who originally commissioned and presumably paid for it.
The first written reference to the painting appears in the diary of Antonio de' Beatis who visited Leonardo on the 10th October 1517. He was shown three paintings by the master, who was aged sixty-five at the time. These three consisted of one of the Madonna and Child in the lap of St. Anne, one of a young St. John the Baptist and a third of a Florentine lady. 

Beauty of Mona Lisa:-

Mona Lisa fulfilled 15th- and early 16th century requirements for portraying a woman of virtue. Lisa is portrayed as a faithful wife through gesture—her right hand rests over her left. Leonardo also presented Lisa as fashionable and successful, perhaps more well-off than she was. Her dark garments and black veil were Spanish-influenced high fashion; they are not a depiction of mourning for her first daughter, as some scholars have proposed. The portrait is strikingly large; its size is equal to that of commissions acquired by wealthier art patrons of the time.

Mysteries behind Mona Lisa:-

Smile of Mona Lisa
Now scientists claim to have found the answer to these changes, namely our eyes that sends random signals to the brain. They believe that the Mona Lisa's smile can be seen depending on the cells in the retina and what channels to use the image into the brain. Different cells within the eye are designed to take a variety of colors, contrast, background and background front. All depends on what cells first captures the image and what channel is used to interpret the brain. These channels codify the data based on object size, clarity, brightness and location of the visual field.
Various other suggestions have also been made as to the reason behind the smile including the simple idea that during this period in history women were instructed to smile only with one side of their mouths so as to add an air of mystery and elegance. An Italian doctor's answer was that the woman suffered from bruxism; this is an unconscious habit of grinding the teeth during sleep or times of great stress. The long months of sitting for the portrait could well have triggered an attack of teeth grinding. Leonardo did attempt to keep his subject relaxed and entertained with the use of music; he had six musicians to play for her plus and installed a musical fountain invented by himself. Different, beautiful works were read out loud and a white Persian cat and a greyhound bitch were there for playing with. The most expressive parts of the human face are the outer points of the lips and eyes. Leonardo has deliberately left these areas in shadow which creates the effect of causing different people to read different emotions on the face of the sitter, whomever she may be.


Eyebrows and eyelashes
Now, a French engineer and inventor say he's uncovered part of the enigma. Pascal Cotte announced at a press conference that he has found definitive proof that when Leonardo da Vinci painted the original portrait he included "Mona Lisa's" lashes and brows. Cotte examined the world's most famous painting using a high-definition camera of his own design.The device scanned a 240-million pixel image using 13 light spectrums, including ultra-violet and infrared.
The resulting ultra-high resolution photograph of 150,000 dots per inch yielded a reproduction of the "Mona Lisa's" face magnified 24 times. And there Cotte found the evidence he sought -- a single brushstroke of a single hair above the left brow. Watch as expert announces findings on "Mona Lisa"
"One day I say, if I can find only one hair, only one hair of the eyebrow, I will have definitively the proof that originally Leonardo da Vinci had painted eyelash and eyebrow," said Cotte. So, if she once had lashes, where did they go? Possibly faded pigment, Cotte suggested, or possibly a poor attempt to clean the painting. "And if you look closely at the eye of 'Mona Lisa' you can clearly see that the cracks around the eye have slightly disappeared, and that may be explained that one day a curator or restorer cleaned the eye, and cleaning the eye, removed, probably removed the eyelashes and eyebrow," he said. Cotte's high resolution camera led him to numerous additional discoveries about the enigmatic artwork.
The infrared layer of the image shows that the fingers of the "Mona Lisa's" left hand were originally painted in a slightly different position than in the final portrait.
Cotte said the change in position was the result of a lap blanket held by Leonardo's model. In today's faded image the blanket is all but obscured, but the highly detailed camera detected the faded pigment.
"It was really the first time that we have this kind of position of the arm," Cotte said, "and after Leonardo da Vinci, thousands of painters have made a copy of this position but without understanding why we have this position. The real justification of the position of the wrist is to hold the blanket on her stomach. It's really a great, for me, it's really a great discovery." One of the results of Cotte's work is a "virtual" restoration of the painting, an exact replica showing the original colors as they would have looked when the painting was new. The skin tones of Leonardo's model appear as a warm pink and the sky behind her is a glowing blue, far different from the gray-green tint that covers the artwork today. That dark patina is the result of 500 years of aging, according to Cotte. Cotte presented numerous other findings within the infrared layer he photographed. The researcher said the "Mona Lisa's" smile was originally slightly wider than it appears today, and, in fact, so was her entire face.
Leonardo kept this painting with him for more than a decade, and is said to have worked on it up until his death. The Renaissance artist once said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned."

Background of the painting
Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting. Her folded hands form the front corner of the pyramid. Her breast, neck and face glow in the same light that models her hands. The light gives the variety of living surfaces an underlying geometry of spheres and circles. Leonardo referred to a seemingly simple formula for seated female figure: the images of seated Madonna, which were widespread at the time. He effectively modified this formula in order to create the visual impression of distance between the sitter and the observer. The armrest of the chair functions as a dividing element between Mona Lisa and the viewer.
Most art historians believe the background, which features valleys and mountains, is an idealised, composite landscape drawn from the artist's imagination. Using the techniques of sfumato and chiaroscuro, the landscape becomes ethereal and idealized, though the bridge is often identified as the Buriano, near Arezzo. The background appears timeless, infinite with atmospheric light that gives the impression of being changeable.





Other revelations include:
·         Lace on Mona Lisa's dress.
·         The transparency of the veil shows da Vinci first painted a landscape and then used transparency techniques to paint the veil atop it.
·         A change in the position of the left index and middle finger.
·         The elbow was repaired from damage due to a rock thrown at the painting in 1956.
·         The blanket covering Mona Lisa's knees also covers her stomach.
·         The left finger was not completely finished.
·         A blotch mark on the corner of the eye and chin are varnish accidents, countering claims that Mona Lisa was sick.
·         And the Mona Lisa was painted on uncut poplar board, contrary to speculations.

Technique used:-

Leonardo created this painting with oil on wood. The painter uses the sfumato technique, which means smoky' or vanished in smoke' in Italian. This technique "consisted in building up layers of paint from dark to light, letting the previous one come through, thus achieving, through a play of shadows and lights, the optical illusion of relief." The finished product appears as though a veil of smoke had drifted between the subject of the painting and the viewer, adding some brightness to the pure darks and blocking some of the pure brights of the subject.It is not a difficult technique in practice. It requires competence in brushwork and judgement of value (brightness) but does not necessarily require a high degree of skill.


The Situation today:-

The situation today is that the Mona Lisa has become so well-known that it may only be viewed behind thick protective glass after battling through a large crowd of sightseers. The cover of triplex glass which protects the painting was gifted by the Japanese during the Mona Lisa's 1974 visit to Japan -- that being the last time it left the museum. By international agreement the painting will no longer be displayed in other countries but will stay safely on display at the Louvre in Paris where it may be properly protected against further damage, theft or attack. The bulletproof box is kept at a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 55 percent; a built-in air conditioner and nine pounds of silica gel ensure no change in the air condition. Once a year the box is opened to check the painting and for maintenance on the air conditioning system.
The last work done on the panel was in the 1950's when age spots were removed during a cleaning. Suggestions that the painting should experience a thorough facelift involving the removal of layers of resin, lacquer and varnish from the past 500 years have received a firm thumbs down from the Louvre. Computer restoration shows that the colours of the painting may be quite different without the grime that presently covers it. Rosy cheeks instead of sickly yellow, pale blue skies instead of the present green glow. On the downside, any attempt to clean the painting may result in irreparable damage from the various solvents required to remove the varnish and there is no guarantee the suspected bright colours exist below the coatings which have been applied over the years as a protectant.  For those lucky enough to have viewed the work under natural light state there is still a surprising amount of colour evident to the eye, maybe more is below the grime, but no one dares to clean her. X-rays have shown there are three different versions of the Mona Lisa hidden under the present one.

Display:-

On April 6, 2005—following a period of curatorial maintenance, recording, and analysis—the painting was moved to a new location within the museum's Salle des États. It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass. The renovation of the gallery where the painting now resides was financed by the Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television. About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year.

2 comments:

  1. Nice Blog. Very informative and entertaining as well.

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  2. I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art
    has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The
    prices being asked and paid were huge too.
    Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8BWS6R,
    bought some time ago from wahooart.com, is as lovely as ever.

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