The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the history of art and
continues to inspire reproduction, parody, scientific theory, and more.
In 2003-2006 we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the painting
which now has it's own room at the Louve. The painting has achieved
celebrity status and is continually appearing as subject
of news articles around the globe.
Who Was She? She is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, born Tuesday, (the only day the Louvre
is closed) June 15th 1479. She married Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi
del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine merchant, when she was 16. At the time
of the painting she was 24 and had 2 sons.
What other names does she go by? Monna Lisa was her original title. Monna is a contraction for Madonna,
Mia Donna (Madam or My Lady). It became Mona Lisa, in English,
due to a spelling error. She is La Joconde in French, La Gioconda
in Italian, "the merry one," referring to the smile but also possibly a
play on her name, Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo.
Who painted her? Leonardo da Vinci- (1452-1519) He was the illegitimate son of a notary
from the small Tuscan village of Vinci near Florence. Very handsome
with a wonderful physique, he even possessed an excellent singing voice.
Artist, scientist, philosopher, anatomist, astronomer, engineer, inventor
and courtier, a true Renaissance man.
How long did it take him to paint it? It was believed to have been painted from 1503 to 1506, four years.
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 softly 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 widely spread 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 us. The woman sits markedly upright with her arms folded, which is also a sign of
her reserved posture. Only her gaze is fixed on the observer and seems to welcome him to this
silent communication. Since the brightly lit face is practically framed with various much darker
elements (hair, veil, shadows), the observer's attraction to Mona Lisa's face is brought to even
greater extent. Thus, the composition of the figure evokes an ambiguous effect: we are attracted
to this mysterious woman but have to stay at a distance as if she were a divine creature. There
is no indication of an intimate dialogue between the woman and the observer as is the case in
the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Louvre) painted by Raphael about ten years after Mona
Lisa and undoubtedly influenced by Leonardo's portrait.
The Da Vinci Code is a mystery/detective novel by American author Dan Brown, published in 2003
by Doubleday. The novel is based on the controversial premise that there is a conspiracy within
the Roman Catholic Church to cover up the true story of Jesus. The novel has helped generate
popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and the role of Mary Magdalene
in the history of Christianity. According to the premise of the novel, the Vatican knows it is
living a lie, but continues to do so to keep itself in power.
The secrets of the Grail are connected, according to the novel, to Leonardo Da Vinci's work as
* Leonardo was a member of the Priory of Sion and knew the secret of the Grail. The secret is in
fact revealed in The Last Supper, in which no actual chalice is present at the table. The figure
seated next to Christ is not a man, but a woman, his wife Mary Magdalene. Most reproductions of
the work are from a later alteration that obscured her obvious female characteristics.
* The androgyny of the Mona Lisa reflects the sacred union of male and female which is implied in
the holy union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Such parity between the cosmic forces of masculine
and feminine has long been a deep threat to the established power of the Church. The name Mona
Lisa is actually an anagram for "Amon L'Isa", referring to the father and mother gods of Ancient
Egypt (namely Amun and Isis).
* A number of different authors also speculate about the possibility of Jesus becoming a father.
There are at least three children attributed to him, a daughter Tamar, born before the
Crucifixion, and two sons Jesus (the Jesus Justus from the New Testament) and Josephes, both
born after the Resurrection. Their names are now part of the common culture of conspiracy
writers, however only two decades ago, when Holy Blood, Holy Grail was written, the names were
never mentioned. The royal descents that lie at the heart of The Da Vinci Code mysteries centre
on the family of Josephes, who is supposed to be the grandfather of Aminadab del Graal, first of
the "Fisher Kings".