The Mona Lisa Smile – Is This Why She Was Smiling?
For century’s viewers of the 16th-century portrait Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda (La Joconde) have been intrigued by her mysterious smile. Her secret and subtle seductive smile inspires people throughout the world to wonder “what is she thinking” or “who was she?” Was she da Vinci’s lover?
History in fact documents that she as the wife of Leonardo’s friend a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. Leonardo worked on her portrait for four years. He was known to practice his portraits on friends.
It’s unlikely that Mona Lisa was da Vinci’s lover. Though he must have been very fond of the painting since it was one of the few that he kept in his possession and continued to perfect and never quite finished.
So what was she thinking? Why the mysterious slightly amused smile?
When da Vinci painted a model the process of posing would be long and tiresome. The model would get restless and eventually zone out. Just imagine hours on end looking impassive and holding perfectly still while the master scrutinized every detail and painted his masterpiece.
It is documented that while da Vinci painted Mona Lisa he wanted to avoid her looking melancholy, so he painted her to live music.
“… While he was painting Mona Lisa, who was a very beautiful woman, he employed singers and musicians or jesters to keep her full of merriment and so to chase away the melancholy that painters usually give to portraits.”*
The music kept her feeling light, happy and engaged.
When Leonardo captured the famous and mysterious smile it was a moment to music. It is believed that she is smiling because of the music playing for her benefit.
da Vinci painted hundreds of paintings throughout his lifetime. Famous portraits, numerous inventions and much more.
However Mona Lisa must have held a special place in his heart. He never considered it quite done even after working on the painting off and on over 4 years, he was obsessed with perfecting every tiny detail and it is one of the few paintings that remained in his possession. And even still today this painting is still not fully understood and continues to be a mystery.
*Giorgio Vasari, 1511. Historian. (from the book “Leonardo da Vinci”)