Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Oil on poplar, 77 × 53 cm, 30 × 21
No discussion of portraits is complete without reference to the most famous (and, in my opinion, overrated) portrait of all time. I remember the outstanding lines at the Louvre and the subsequent let-down when finally arriving face-to-face with this most famous of faces. But, of course, Max doesn’t need to know of my disappointing interaction with La Giaconda.
Instead, we discussed how the Mona Lisa was Leonardo da Vinci’s mangum opus, the painting he began in 1503 and finished four years later. It seems da Vinci loved his Mona so much that he only parted with her when he died. The mystery of Mona Lisa’s identity continues to intrigue and perplex art lovers. Who was this woman? Was she Leonardo’s attempt to glorify women in general rather than one woman in particular? Was she not actually a woman at all but one of Leonardo’s male students dressed as a woman? Was she a female version of Leonardo himself? Dr. Lillian Schwartz used digital technology and discovered that Da Vinci’s facial features and those of the Mona Lisa are perfectly aligned with one another. Was she simply a fictional creation of Leonardo’s imagination? Or was she a friend of Leonardo’s named Isabella d’Este who he sketched from time to time? Was she a young version of his mother, whom he loved dearly?
Max believes that the Mona Lisa is a portrait of Leonardo’s mother because “he wanted to remember her”. He painted her young to “show who the mother was in her prime of youth”. I tend to agree with him because it would explain why Mona resembles Leonardo in some way. It would also explain the intimate expression on her face- the look that a well-loved child knows well.
After talking about the Mona Lisa, we looked at the Mona Lisa Mania website and played around with all the fun bits there.
We also chattted about all the different ways you could reconstruct the Mona Lisa, including this Rubix cube version.
Maxi’s final verdict on this famous portrait is a positive one- “I like it because it’s so beautiful. I can’t describe it. There’s just something about it.” Alas, again, I am alone with my impressions. I’m glad Max can appreciate something that does not meet my own aesthetic preferences.