Mona LisaDown through the last five hundred years, if one had to name the most famous painting in the world, most people tend to think of Leonardo daVinci's Mona Lisa. Housed today in the Louvre in Paris, the painting has one of the longest, most illustrious, most well-documented histories imaginable. Stolen, ransomed, nearly destroyed, the Mona Lisa has very nearly taken on a life of its own. Commissioned about 1503 and worked upon by the master intermittently for nearly two years, the portrait was never delivered to its buyer. Leonardo is known to have kept it with him for the rest of his life.
Much has been made of the subject's enigmatic smile. Recent computer analysis has suggested the entire portrait may have been something of a self-portrait though the evidence to such a theory is rather convoluted at best. A more likely theory, given the nature of Leonardo's analytical mind, is that he relied on elements of geometry perhaps more than physical likeness. If one were to place a compass point precisely between the subject's eyes then adjust the pencil point to her lipline, the resulting circle would precisely coincide with the outer edge of the model's cheek structure and hair on the left, the edge of her hair net or veil near the top of her forehead and the hairline itself on the right side of the face. Check it out. You'll never look upon that famous face again in the same light.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
12 December 1997