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Friday, March 29, 2013

Mona Lisa and the Soul of Leonardo da Vinci



Mona Lisa 1503-1506

Mona Lisa (1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the world’s most famous paintings that have drawn interest for many years from different cultures around the world.  The poise of the painting has created a fascination with people from all lifestyles.  Mona Lisa is seen as perfectly posing in a background of illusion. Together the painting offers a glimpse of a woman who is content in life with a touch of interest in her viewer. The work is seen as a masterpiece of illusion and light. Yet, there might be something more shocking about the Mona Lisa we are not consciously aware of. 

The conventional interpretation of painting is believed by some art scholars to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Lisa was from the Gherardini family of Florence and her picture commissioned during the Renaissance. In her early life she married a silk merchant who eventually became a local official. They had five children together before he passed away. It is believed that they had ties to the Medici family even though they had lost much of their prestige over time. No one knows for sure who she actually was.

The painting is interesting in that Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the main figure in center. Above her folded hands one can see a glow of light that helps to create a spherical illusion around the center of her body. The background is an aerial perspective that adjusts the picture image and colors slightly as one move closer and further away. It creates an additional illusion of depth based upon the sensitivity of the eye. Those who are more sensitive can see a slightly different picture based upon the depth of their focus. 

This depth of focus was further highlighted when Cotte, the founder of Lumiere Technology, developed a 13 ultraviolet spectrum camera. The forearm and write were actually holding a drape. There were a couple of mistakes in the painting such as a blotch on the corner of the eye and chin that was actually varnish mistakes and not sickness as commonly thought. In addition, the elbow had to be repaired from a rock thrown at the picture in 1956.

According to Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage who magnified Mona Lisa’s eyes, you can find letter LD in the right eye (Leonardo da Vinci) and CE or B- (unknown marking) in the left eye. It is believed that the letters represent the author and the model. Leonardo believed in the eyes as the “doors of the soul” and a special means of communication. It would be natural for such a person to use the eyes as a way of encoding information about the author and its subject.

Others have argued that if you match up Leonardo’s portrait from the left half of his face with the right side of Mona Lisa’s face you will find a match. Of course, you have to flip it in the mirror. A potential reason why Mona Lisa was so oddly charming was that it was Leonardo himself at a younger age. If so, it would be a statement of perception about how what we see is not always everything there is to know. Leonardo was considered a handsome youth with wide appeal and if we change our draping and few other trivial things we actually are viewed as something else. No matter how one views another they fail to miss the deeper complexity of human life.

The portrait of the female version of da Vinci as a Renaissance “looking glass self” would make sense. We define ourselves by our social interaction with others. Leonardo sayings of “doors of the soul”, using mirrors in codes, and being left handed may lend to the concept that we are reflections of what we see in the world. His very creativity being drawn from the differences of how he used his brain and the giftedness by which he felt the world. One must wonder if that great smirk is of him looking upon himself as something different than anyone else can see it—a higher form of conscious awareness.

Is there a reason why scholars call it an “androgynous” look? Androgynous defined as combined of male and female. Was he the thinking and feeling man?  Perhaps the da Vinci’s code is to be able to trace all of his works and stories back to the man who no one truly knew. Can you unlock da Vinci’s code by opening the door? To date...no one has.

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