mona lisa: still crazy for the old flame

Its persistence to in capturing the public’s imagination is in itself one of the painting’s imagined mysteries. Perhaps mysteries that have been more created and fermented by the legions of art critics and scholars than was actually imagined and figured into the composition by Leonardo da Vinci himself. The familiarity of the enigmatic face is known to everyone, but has been by no means exhausted as a person of interest. Not surprisingly, da Vinci’s art has always been closely scrutinized given his reputation for codes and alleged embeddinig of esotericism within his work.Like Bosch’s Seven Deadly Sins, the seven new theories on the Mona Lisa can perhaps be jiggled to fit in given their varying degrees of plausibility and sometimes less than academic motivations.

The fascination with the Mona Lisa expanded in the mid nineteenth-century because of the Symbolist movement which asserted the painting encompassed a type of feminine mystique. Technically, lyrically and poetically, she is a woman who has never been claimed, but has many suitors…

Art and the mob “The mob not only grabs hold of art without being entitled to do so, but it also enters the artist. It takes up residence inside the artist and smashes a few holes in the wall, windows to the outer world: the mob wants to see and be seen. With sweaty fingers, that cloddish mob is tapping out something that rightfully belongs to her alone. Unmasked, unbidden, they sing along with the cantilenas. Moistening their forefingers, they pursue a theme, looking for the secondary theme, but failing to find it. And so, nodding their heads, they are content to rediscover and repeat the main theme. Recognizing it, they wag their tails. For most of them, the principle charm of art is to recognize something that they think they recognize.” The Piano Teacher, Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.... read more:

E.H. Gombrich: But it is worth while to forget what we know, or believe we know, about the picture, and to look at it as if we were the first people ever to set eyes on it. What strikes us first is the amazing degree to which Lisa looks alive. She really seems to look at us and to have a mind of her own. Like a living being, she seems to change before our eyes and to look a little different every time we come back to her. Even in photographs of the picture we experience this strange effect, but in front of the original in the Louvre it is almost uncanny. Sometimes she seems to mock at us, and then again we seem to catch something like sadness in her smile. All this sounds rather mysterious, and so it is; that is so often the effect of a great work of art. Nevertheless, Leonardo certainly knew how he achieved this effect, and by what means. That great observer of nature knew more about the way we use our eyes than anybody who had ever lived before him. …

"L.H.O.O.Q., a cheap postcard-sized reproduction of the Mona Lisa,upon which Duchamp drew a mustache and a goatee. The "readymade" done in 1919, is one of the most well known act of degrading a famous work of art. The title when pronounced in French, puns the frase "Elle a chaud au cul", translating colloquially in "She has a hot ass". --- read more:

” Marquis de Sade considered her the “quintessence of femininity”, while Napoleon called her “Madame Lisa” and for four years – from 1800 to 1804 – he kept her in his bedroom at the Tuileries. … Every year a piece is added to solve the complicated enigma of Leonardo’s painting and the latest revelation comes from Silvano Vinceti (president of the Italian National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environment Heritage), who in December claimed that he had found some symbols in the painting: the letters L and V in the right eye, CE or B in the left eye and the number 72 under the arched bridge in the right backdrop of the woman. All elements which could contribute to giving a new interpretation of the Mona Lisa…. Read More: a

"Other experts assert all of this sleuthing is merely inspired by cracks that have appeared in the painting over time. Meanwhile, British critic Jonathan Jones argues that the identity of the Mona Lisa is incontestable, and that the 2007 discovery of a note describing Leonardo's progress in 1503 on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo confirms that the unremarkable middle-class woman, by whose name the painting is universally known in Paris, was the sitter. " read more: image:,r:3,s:0&tx=67&ty=43

According to Vinceti, the symbols in the right eye could be “a monogram which seems to be LV, maybe Leonardo’s initials”. Different but even more difficult to decipher are the characters inside the model’s left eye, but with regards to the numbers in the arch of the bridge, they could be turned upside down and be an L and a 2 or a reference to an exoteric, philosophical or religious thought of the Italian master. In the meantime polemics have already been raised by art critics against Vinceti’s theory. … but also claims that there is an underlying immorality in the intentions of Vinceti, accused of malice and scientific speculation: “These are forms of vampirism. These people cling on to an important artist just to draw the attention on themselves”. Read More: a

"Da Vinci's other famous works include the Vitruvian Man, an illustrated study on the proportions of the human body relating to architecture and geometry (read: a four-armed dude with no pants on), sketches for the first modern parachute, design ideas for both a boat and a flying machine (read: an airplane), The Last Supper (read: a painting where Jesus presumably becomes sick of taking the tab for dinner), an eight barreled machine gun, and a giant crossbow. Those last two Harbingers of Badassery-Caused Death were true ideas of Da Vinci, and history thankfully has the sketches to prove it. The man who was sensitive enough to paint Jesus' final repast was filled with enough war ideas to invent a Giant Fucking Crossbow and an Eight-Barreled Fucking Machine Gun. Read more:

A bridge too far? The murky backgrounds in the picture have also been a source of speculation. They are though to be imaginary or renderings of two different milieus in Tuscany. To the sitter’s right is thought to be Lake Chiana and a bridge over the river Arno to the left. Until now:

James Adams:Just this month, however, an Italian art historian, Carla Gloria, moved the three-arched bridge almost 300 kilometres to the northwest, to the town of Bobbio, about 70 km south of Milan. Gloria believes Leonardo’s sitter wasn’t, as most scholars believe, Lisa del Giocondo but Bianca Giovanna Sforza, the daughter of a Milanese duke named Ludovico. Gloria says her belief has been strengthened by the purported discovery of the numbers 72 heretofore concealed in the bridge’s span – a reference, she says, to the year 1472 when the Bobbio bridge was almost destroyed by severe floods.Read More: http://www.theglobe a

"It is unknown when Da Vinci decided to begin the Mona Lisa, but it was put close to 1503 or 1504 in Italy. After working awhile on initial drawings, Da Vinci following up what appears to be the longest initial work on a painting with what appears to be the longest procrastination periods known to man, abandoning work on the painting after four years. The great artist finished his painting in 1519, which only tells us that you can do jack for a few years and still come out on top. Read more: image:

E.H. Gombrich: But only Leonardo found the true solution to the problem. The painter must leave the beholder something to guess. If the outlines are not quite so firmly drawn, if the form is left a little vague, as though disappearing into a shadow, this impression of dryness and stiffness will be avoided. This is Leonardo’s famous invention which the Italians call ‘sfumato’- the blurred outline and mellowed colors that allow one form to merge with another and always leave something to our imagination. Read More:

---Like Brown's protagonist, some are convinced that da Vinci filled the "Mona Lisa" with religious and scientific symbolism, including the golden ratio—a very precise measurement said to appear mysteriously throughout the natural world—in drawing the sitter's face. Experts are quick to dismiss this notion, and most other "theories" on the painting, as the products of overactive imaginations. "There is no documented evidence that da Vinci had any kind of intention to use the golden ratio within the 'Mona Lisa,' even though he certainly had knowledge of it," said Mario Livio, astrophysicist and author of "The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, The World's Most Astonishing Number" (Broadway, 2003). --- read more:

…”If we now return to the ‘Mona Lisa’, we may understand something of its mysterious effect. We see that Leonardo has used the means of his ‘sfumato’ with the utmost deliberation. Everyone who has ever tried to draw or scribble a face knows that what we call its expression rests mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes. Now it is precisely these parts which Leonardo has left deliberately indistinct, by letting them merge into a soft shadow. That is why we are never quite certain in what mood Mona Lisa is really looking at us. Her expression always seems just to elude us. ( Gombrich)

It is not only vagueness, of course, which produces this effect. There is much more behind it. Leonardo has done a very daring thing, which perhaps only a painter of his consummate mastery could risk. If we look carefully at the picture, we see that the two sides do not quite match. This is most obvious in the fantastic dream landscape in the background. The horizon on the left side seems to lie much lower than the one on the right. Consequently, when we focus on the left side of the picture, the woman looks somehow taller or more erect than if we focus on the right side. And her face, too, seems to change with this change of position, because, even here, the two sides do not quite match. But with all these sophisticated tricks, Leonardo might have produced a clever piece of jugglery rather than a great work of art, had he not known exactly how far he could go, and had he not counterbalanced his daring deviation from nature by an almost miraculous rendering of the living flesh. Look at the way in which he modelled the hand, or the sleeves with their minute folds. … Read More:


New findings support a theory that two Biblical women – Mary Magdalene and Rachel – were fused together as the single figure in the Mona Lisa. According to Scott Lund, a Los Angeles-based writer and expert in symbolic language, Leonardo da Vinci joined both woman in his painting in order to create a single matriarchal archetype that united the Old and New Testaments. In his Mona Lisa Code article, printed in this month’s Bel-Air Magazine, Lund exposes da Vinci’s hidden theme of the painting. The Renaissance master used the two-faced Roman god Janus as a clever metaphor to portray the duality of the soul. The use of the popular Roman deity – represented as a head with two faces looking in opposite directions -enabled da Vinci to depict the divine moment when the soul of a male embryo is created by the soul of its mother.” Read More:

Frank pasquale: The Oxford Press series on the seven deadly sins was a notable sign of the intellectual times. Many of the books argued that the so-called sin was not really so bad after all. For example, far from the menacing images of Bosch and Cadmus, Francine Prose’s essay on gluttony offered “a feast of fine writing on the sweetest sin of all.” The Situationist’s recent series on appearance competition/indulgence brought Prose’s point to mind. For example, in the post on “Spas and Girls,” they note: Teens spend some $9.7 billion a year on beauty products, and cosmetic and beauty aids are among the most advertised in teen magazines.... read more:

“The supreme archetype for a mother in the Old Testament was Rachel, whose child was named Benjamin, or ‘son of my right hand’,” says Lund. The right hand of the Mona Lisa is clearly shown by Lund to be the representation of a male fetus that gains vitality at the expense of its mother. In the Old Testament account, Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. Lund thinks that the jagged scar seen on the index finger of the feeble left hand represents Rachel’s traumatic delivery. Read More:

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Last week, a Canadian Classics professor decided that the Mona Lisa was one example of a Renaissance tradition of translating a literary passage into a work of art. Ross Killpatrick claims that Leonardo’s painting is an interpretation or “invention,” of passages from love poems by both Horace (Ode 1.22, about how singing of his smiling lover protects the poet from beasts while traveling through the wilderness) and Petrarch (Canzoniere CXLV and CLIX, both anguished love poems about a woman). Kilpatrick also believes that the bridge portrayed in the background of the painting is the same as the one found in Petrarch’s hometown of Arezzo, according to Science Daily. read more:

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