Wednesday, December 31, 2014

La Joconde

To the Italians, she is La Gioconda, to the French, La Joconde, and in English we call her Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci, started 1806. Completed ??). She is arguably the most well known painting in the world, although why we really don't know. What makes her so special that people flock to this one room in the Louvre to see her?

The subject of the painting was a woman known as Lisa del Giocondo, also known as Lisa Gherardini (1479- 1542). She was an ordinary, middle class, mother of five who has gained international fame due to this portrait commissioned by her husband and painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Nice job DH, you chose the perfect artist for your wife's portrait!  Unfortunately for them though, they probably never received the painting since it is thought that da Vinci worked on it for years, and after da Vinci died his assistant inherited the painting. Then King Francis I of France bought it and it has been owned by the French ever since.

She is painted on a poplar panel (ie wood) which has warped some. Today she is housed behind bullet proof glass in a climate controlled environment, with an LED light made especially for her to prevent degradation.
Notable features include her enigmatic smile, her eyes looking back at the observer, her folded arms-right over left- indicating she is a virtuous women, use of light, and use of a landscape background in a portrait (my favorite part, if you look closely at the background it is very pretty). Unfortunately, you can't get a very close look at her because there is a barrier that prevents you from getting less than a few feet and away.

The ironic thing about this room is that there is always a large crowd of people straining to see this 
largish, but modest size painting, while directly opposite- on the other side of the room- hangs the Louvre's largest painting, The Wedding Feast at Cana (Paolo Veronese, 1563). There were people looking at this grand painting, but not nearly as many as were crowded around the Mona Lisa . 

If you look at the man standing on the front left of the painting you get a sense of how huge the painting is. With this painting you can walk right up to it and look up. You can't see anything. It was definitely made to be viewed from a distance.

The one thing you can see are the seams where the canvas was stitched together. That's the cool thing about seeing a painting in life.

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