ArtSpeak: Mona Lisa
Who am I. Isn’t that the question of most women? Men just can’t seem to figure us out. And Leonardo, he portrayed that beautifully, si? Quite the Renaissance Man.
You know him, don’t you. Leonardo? From Vinci. Tall. Long blond hair. Si, Si, Leonardo de Vinci. I knew you knew of him. Charming, so charming…though perhaps a little, how to say, touched in the head? He talks of flying like a bird — showed me drawings of his flying machines. Strange, I know, but so, so extraordinary.
Si. Who am I — people always pondering about ‘The Mona Lisa’. It is simple. I am Lisa del Giaconda, the wife of a silk merchant. I have one child with another on the way — my husband commissioned this painting in celebration of our new baby’s arrival. You can see by my veil — look carefully — can you see it? It is not the fashion any longer but in 1503 all expecting mothers wore veils -and my hands — how swollen they are — Leonardo captured my matronly hands perfectly… he told me he once lived in a hospital where he studied skeletons and dissected cadavers to understand the muscle structure underneath what he was painting. I told you, he was a little strange…but so…innovative. Other artists were falling over themselves to find out more about this ‘sfumato technique’ he was using. I only posed. All I know of it — he used gauzy washes of pigment over and over again to create a, how to say, 3D effect. He was so proud when he explained that the painting was without lines or borders — ‘in the manner of smoke, he said.
They claim I am the most famous painting in the world — unlike any portrait of its time. To this day experts ponder the mastermind behind the pyramid that forms my body, analyze the focal point of the background that forces you to look into my eyes, demand questions of me I cannot answer. I only posed. I never expected such attention. It is, how to say, exhausting.
I have been scalded by acid, had a rock thrown at me. The poplar panel I sit on has cracked, been braced - become infested with insects and again, braced, again infested by insects and again, braced. I have been washed, retouched, revarnished, reframed and now I sit in a climate controlled bulletproof glass case. I was even stolen -
It was 1911. I was brought to a little apartment in Florence. It was nice to be home again. I had been at the Louvre in Paris for over 100 years by then. His intention was to bring a great Italian painting back to its native soil. Admirable, though he only kept me in a closet of his filthy flat. Two years later they discovered us and brought me back to the Louvre. I had to hide during World War II but since then I have traveled around the world. The seven weeks in New York were remarkable. 1.6 million people elbowing for my attention. And the desperation on the faces of the Japanese who were only allowed ten seconds in front of me. I have looked into the eyes of many, many individuals over the years. It never gets old. Every one seems to have a story of their own.
Ah, si, the smile. I have considered this over the last 500 years. I like to think that possibly Leonardo saw something of me. One time a jester he brought in during my sitting — he would do that — jesters, musicians — to entertain — it was nice. This jester, no — was not funny. It was…a…courtesy smile. And, possibly, Leonardo, he captured this. Though — I only posed. Your guess is, how to say, as good as mine.
ArtSpeak: where the art speaks to you aka a project looking for a patron.
It is fascinating to delve into the lives of the people in these paintings. I have researched and written several more, including Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. I am currently working on a 10 minute play based on The Daughters of Monsieur Boit by John Singer Sargent. The story of the four girls in that painting is haunting.