Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mysterious Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa
With interest in the Mona Lisa in the media over the past few years, I have decided to share with readers some of the more interesting articles that have appeared.

From BBC News: Mona Lisa pregnancy mooted –
The famous smile on Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa could be because she is pregnant or had just had a baby, research suggests.

"This type of gauze dress ... was typical of the kind worn in early 16th Century Italy by women who were pregnant or who had just given birth," said Bruno Mottin of the French Museums' Center for Research and Restoration.

This led to a discussion held on the Shadowed Realm History Forum (and included the identity of the Mona Lisa): http://www.shadowedrealm.com/medieval-forum/topic/874-mona-lisa-preganant/?hl=%2Bmona+%2Blisa

From Live Science: Amateur historian claims he has found Mona Lisa’s resting place –
An amateur historian said Friday that he has found the final resting place of the woman some believe inspired Leonardo da Vinci's most renowned painting, the "Mona Lisa.''

A death certificate shows that Lisa Gherardini—the Renaissance woman some believe was the model for the "Mona Lisa''—died on July 15, 1542, in Florence and is buried in a convent in central Florence, Giuseppe Pallanti said.

From The Telegraph: Riddle of Mona Lisa solved: she was the mother of five –
Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the world's most enduring symbol of feminine mystique, is actually a portrait of the virtuous wife of a family friend, who had five children including two daughters who became nuns.

"The portrait of Mona Lisa, done when Lisa Gherardini was aged about 24, was probably commissioned by Leonardo's father himself for his friends, as he is known to have done on at least one other occasion.

"This would have been Ser Piero's way of giving a helping hand to his son, who was hopelessly vague when it came to money matters."

Mr Pallanti also found the registration of the wedding on March 5, 1495, between Lisa, then 16, and Ser Francesco, who was 14 years her senior. His first wife, Camilla Rucellai, had died the previous year.

Nude Mona Lisa
From Discovery News: Nude, Mona Lisa like painting surfaces –
Leonardo da Vinci, in a Renaissance version of Mad Magazine, may have painted his famous Mona Lisa in a number of ways, including nude. Now, a painting has surfaced that looks much like the original, sparking debate over just how far the master took his iconic painting.

The newly revealed painting, hidden for almost a century within the wood wall of a private library, shows a portrait of a half-naked woman with clear links to the famous (and clothed) Mona Lisa.

A note dating to 1845 records that the Cardinal bought "the portrait of the Mona Lisa, mistress of Francis I, by Leonardo da Vinci," from the Rospigliosis, a rich aristocratic Roman family.

From IOL News: The eyes have it –
Hidden in the dark paint of her pupils are tiny letters and numbers, placed there by the artist Leonardo da Vinci and revealed only now thanks to high-magnification techniques.

Experts say the barely distinguishable letters and numbers represent something of a real-life Da Vinci code.The revelation could have come straight from the pages of Dan Brown’s best-seller “The Da Vinci Code”, in which the Mona Lisa is said to contain hidden clues about the Holy Grail.

From Live Science: 25 Secrets of the Mona Lisa Revealed –
New images uncover 25 secrets about the Mona Lisa, including proof that Leonardo da Vinci gave her eyebrows, solving a long-held mystery.

"The face of Mona Lisa appears slightly wider and the smile is different and the eyes are different," Cotte said. "The smile is more accentuated I would say."

From The Telegraph: Identity of Mona Lisa revealed –
However, academics at Heidelberg University say scribbled notes in the margin of a book 500 years old are the evidence that proves the woman with the strange half-smile, whose portrait hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Giocondo, a Florentine merchant.

Many aficionados have long supposed La Gioconda, as she was also known, was the sitter, from comments made by Giorgio Vasari in 1550.

But Vasari's identification was made 50 years after Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, and, the university said he was noted for elaborating the truth.

Now notes written by Agostino Vespucci, who knew Leonardo, found in the university library, confirm the sitter as Lisa del Giocondo.

From Discovery News: Was Mona Lisa a dude? –
Italian researchers who specialize in resolving art mysteries said Wednesday they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa -- and claimed he was a man.

Mona Lisa
Salai as da Vinci's
John the Baptist
Salai, real name Gian Giacomo Caprotti, an effeminate young artist who worked with da Vinci for 25 years, is thought to have served as a model and muse for several of his paintings. The pair had an "ambiguous" relationship and were probably lovers, Vinceti said.

Comparisons between the facial characteristics of figures from several of da Vinci's works -- such as "St. John the Baptist" and the "Angel Incarnate" -- reveal striking similarities with the Mona Lisa's nose and mouth, he said.

From SIFY News: Hunt for Mona Lisa: Archaeologists Find New Tomb –
Archaeologists digging for the remains of a 16th-century woman believed to be the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa have found a crypt and a stairway to a second tomb inside a medieval convent in Florence.

But most modern scholars now agree the Mona Lisa sitter was Del Giocondo, the wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant, who according to Leonardo expert Giuseppe Pallanti became a nun after her husband's death and died in the convent July 15, 1542, aged 63.

Mona Lisa Excavation
From The Telegraph: Mona Lisa “Crypt” Found –
Professor Silvano Vinceti is leading the hunt for Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo who is widely believed to be the mystery woman behind the 500 year old painting of Mona Lisa.

The crypt was found under the floor of the St Ursula convent in Florence after a foot of modern concrete was removed and unearthed a layer of ancient, 35 inch wide bricks.

The aim of the dig is to find Mona Lisa's remains, compare her DNA with that of two her children buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church, then reconstruct her face and compare it to Leonardo's painting.


From CBS News: Is Buried Skeleton What Remains of Real Mona Lisa –
Archaeologists searching for the remains of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa have uncovered a skeleton that may belong to the mysterious woman.

The skeleton was unearthed in a Florence convent where researchers are searching for the remains of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, the women believed to be the model for da Vinci's famous painting. Based on an early look at the cranium and pelvis, the skeleton appears to be female, Bologna University anthropologist Giorgio Gruppioni told news agencies Friday (May 27).

From The Telegraph: Attempt to return Mona Lisa to Italy dismissed –
The 500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece was painted in Florence before he took it to France where it has lived ever since.

Art historian professor Silvano Vinceti, who is currently looking for the final resting place of the women believed to have posed for the painting, had launched a campaign to bring the painting back to Florence.

From The LA Times: And you think you knew the Mona Lisa –
This much is well established: On Aug. 21, 1911, an Italian house painter named Vincenzo Peruggia, who had briefly worked on a project at the Louvre, walked out of the Paris museum with the celebrated masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. He kept police and newspapers speculating about the crime for more than two years before sending a letter to a Florence art dealer signed "Leonard V." offering him the painting. Peruggia was soon caught and successfully tried. But in 100 years of fascination with the theft that has produced books, articles and even a documentary, a number of odd or puzzling facts have emerged — some more compelling than the question of who did it.

From ADNKronoso International: Archaeologists hunting for Mona Lisa unearth tomb and staircase –
Archaeologists digging for the remains of a 16th-century woman believed to be the model for Leonardo's Mona Lisa masterpiece have found a crypt and a stairway to a probably second tomb inside a former medieval convent in central Florence.

The dig began on Wednesday in the hallways of the convent and Roman said the team's radar had shown there could be burials there dating back to Gherardini's time as little as two metres below the surface of what was formerly a cloister.

From Hispanic Business dot com: Search for Mona Lisa’s remains to resume –
Archeologists will resume the search for the remains of the noblewoman who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa masterpiece 500 years ago.

Florence province, owner of the site that once was the convent of Saint Orsola where Lisa Gherardini was buried in 1542, has requested that the search continue. 

Archeologists in May 2011 thought they had found her remains when they located a grave containing a woman's skeleton. 

From the Herald Sun: Archaeologists uncover Mona Lisa model’s remains –
IT'S the face that launched a thousand imitations. Now, archaeologists are convinced they've found the body of the real Mona Lisa.

Buried in a crypt beneath a convent in Florence, Italy, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the skeleton belonging to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in 1504.
The wife of a rich silk merchant, Lisa Gheradini, is generally accepted by historians to be the woman with the mysterious smile.

Lisa Gheradini, whose married name was Giocondo, became a nun after her husband's death. She was buried in the grounds of the Convent of Saint Ursula where she died in 1542, aged 63.

Mona Lisa Skeleton
From ABC Radio Australia: Italian archaeologists have unearthed a skeleton which they think may belong to the real-life Mona Lisa –
Italian archaeologists have found a skeleton buried inside the Sant'Orsola monastery in Florence that could belong to Lisa Gherardini, the woman who inspired the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting.

Several bodies have been discovered in the hunt to find the mortal remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as Leonardo's muse.

Although the researchers had previously discovered bits of bones and two sets of remains in the convent, the latest skeleton to be unearthed is the best preserved, crucially, with the skull intact.
It also lies close to the tiny nunnery's Franciscan altar, thereby placing the grave in the right historic period.

But as with the previous remains, this skeleton may also prove to be unrelated.

In that case, new digs will begin in September, to unearth other bodies the researchers believe lie on the other side of the altar, in a larger grave.

From Discovery News:  Mona Lisa’s skeleton found –
Known for controversial claims, like that letters and numbers are hidden inside the Mona Lisa painting, Vinceti has based his search in the convent on documents found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti some years ago.

"Lisa Gheradini did exist and lived a rather ordinary life," Pallanti, who is not involved in the project, told Discovery News.

The historian traced back Lisa's life from her birth on June 15, 1479, to her death at the age of 63.

In his research, Pallanti found several important documents, such as Francesco del Giocondo's will. There, the merchant asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his "beloved wife," Lisa.

At that time, Marietta, one of Lisa and Francesco's five children, had become a nun, thus she brought her mother to the nearby convent of Sant'Orsola.

Lisa remained there until her death, according to a document known as a "Book of the Dead," found by Pallanti in a church archive.

"Lisa di Francesco Del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried in Sant'Orsola," the document stated.

From France 24 International News: Louvre's Mona Lisa may be copy of an 'earlier version’ –

A Swiss art foundation claims it has proof that an “earlier” version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece at the Louvre is a genuine painting by the Italian master.

“The Louvre version is far more advanced and of far higher quality, but it is a copy made by Leonardo himself from the earlier one.”

Feldman believes that the Swiss painting was probably left unfinished before Leonardo painted the second version that now hangs in the Louvre.

From Time Newsfeed: Mona Lisa: was there more than one –
Could it have been possible that Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, twice? According to Mona Lisa Foundation, the answer is yes. The Zurich-based organization made buzz last week by announcing that an earlier version of the famed painting — in which Mona Lisa appeared younger, slimmer and happier — is authentic.

Link: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/10/01/mona-lisa-was-there-more-than-one/

From The Art Newspaper: Earliest Copy of Mona lisa found in Prado –
Prado Mona Lisa
Conservators at the Prado in Madrid recently made an astonishing discovery, hidden beneath black overpaint. What was assumed to be a replica of the Mona Lisa made after Leonardo’s death had actually been painted by one of his key pupils, working alongside the master. The picture is more than just a studio copy—it changed as Leonardo developed his original composition.

But what is most exciting about the Prado replica is what it reveals about Leonardo’s original. In the Madrid copy there are areas that are better preserved than in the Louvre painting. The replica gives us more detail of the spindles of the chair, the frill on the edge of the fabric on Lisa’s chest and the semi-transparent veil around her left shoulder, arm and elbow. 

Isleworth Mona Lisa
From Time Newsfeed: “Second” Mona Lisa deemed authentic –
New tests appear to have confirmed that the Isleworth Mona Lisa — a painting thought to be an earlier version of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait — is indeed authentic, reports the Guardian.

According to a carbon-dating test by the Zurich Institute, the canvas of the Isleworth painting dates to somewhere between 1410 and 1455, refuting claims that it was a late 16th century copy, the Huffington Post reported, which appears to depict a younger version of the same woman in the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre in Paris.

From The Star: Lost diaries hold key to mysterious Mona Lisa –
A package of diaries said to have been posted to the US from Britain in the 1960s could provide a vital clue to the origin of a controversial portrait presented in Geneva last month as Leonardo da Vinci’s original Mona Lisa.

But notes by early 20th century British connoisseur and collector Hugh Blaker disappeared and the address they were sent to seems to have never existed.

The diaries would also help establish if the so-called Isleworth variant of the world’s most famous painting could indeed be an earlier portrayal by Leonardo of the enigmatic smiling lady.

From Discovery News: Is this the Mona Lisa’s first smile –
In his work "Lives of the Artists," 16th century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari(1511–1574) named Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo as the subject of the portrait. He dated the painting shortly after Leonardo’s return to Florence in 1500, and stated that it was left unfinished after four years.

Vasari's version is confirmed by an acquaintance of Leonardo da Vinci, Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, a relative of the explorer, navigator and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci.

Perhaps the earliest witness of the masterpiece, Agostino Vespucci wrote in October 1503 that Leonardo was working on three paintings at the time, including a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. Vespucci's annotations were found in 2005 at the Heidelberg University's library (Link: http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/Englisch/news/monalisa.html).

Another account can be found in the travel journal of Antonio De Beatis, the secretary of the cardinal Louis d'Aragona. Written between 1517and 1518, the diary reported that Leonardo had finished the Mona Lisa by 1517, and that it was completed for Giuliano de’ Medici.

To add to the contradiction, the account of the Renaissance historian Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538 – 1592) referred in his 1584 Treatise on Painting, to "a Gioconda and a Mona Lisa."

The Louvre – Mona Lisa

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