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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM A SLOAN

Mona? Is That You?

Last week, the Muse told me about an article he saw discussing a new theory that Mona Lisa is actually a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci’s mother. Sounds like a bad high school comeback.

Every few years, there seems to be a new theory on who the Mona Lisa is a portrait of, or why the Mona Lisa is smiling? or why she’s not smiling? or what she’s thinking? or what the positioning of her hands imply? or what Leo was thinking about when he painted her? and so on and so on...

So much concern about an artifact (ironic that – all art, no facts) from the Renaissance. And not one of his best either...but that’s just my opinion. And I do have opinions about this and many other things, but do I think my opinions are worthy of scientific dissertation and doctoral level debate? Of course not. That’s just silly. Mine are based on a few pieces of information and my own hands-on experience of painting portraits, to wit (I’ve always wanted to say wit)...

• Leo worked on the painting somewhere between 3 and 16 years, depending on which experts you listen to. Either way, that’s a helluva long time for a portrait measuring 30”h x 21”w. Not that big at all. It’s also highly unlikely that he had a model sitting for somewhere between 3 and 16 years, because it’s really hard to sit still that long. It does, however, support the argument that Mona appears ageless. See what I did there?

• Is it based on his mother? Possibly. My favorite idea that was revealed about ten years ago, is that it’s actually a self-portrait in drag. Makes more sense, since for those 3 to 16 years, he was the only constant in his own life. Also, artists do it all the time. They start with a model to get the basics down – maybe, in this case, his mother, or a young woman he had a crush on, or more likely, a young male apprentice in his studio – and then they wing it. It’s called “being creative.”

• Why is she semi-smiling and what does it mean? A. Why not? and B. In the under-paintings that have been revealed through x-rays, it’s clear Leo repainted the mouth several times – sometimes a bigger smile, sometimes no smile at all. He liked the in-between best. End of story. Oh, and what does it mean – a tooth ache? A flirtation? The baby is kicking? – it means whatever you want it to. It’s called “art.” Oh, she also was a blonde once too, but then again, who wasn’t?

• And the hands are posed to be graphically appealing. That’s all.

• And what were Leo and Mona thinking? Well, after 3 to 16 years, I’m guessing, “Why is this taking so long?”

It’s a dream. It’s a confection. It’s an experiment of styles and compositions. It’s a hobby. They didn’t have Illustrator and Photoshop back then and they didn’t have Instagram. This is Leonardo da Vinci we’re talking about. He worked with what he had and he made it up as he went along.

Can you imagine if he had filters? The mind reels.

“Mona Lisa looks as if she has just been sick, or is about to be. “

– Noel Coward

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Mar 24, 2023

Wasn't that Whistler's mother.. lol... I love the drag option - you go Leo - or is is Leona ?

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