Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda or La Joconde) is a portrait oil painting from the sixteenth century with the dimensions of 20 7/8" x 30", painted on poplar wood canvas. The picture was painted by the famous Italian painter Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci.
A closer look at this painting reveals the astounding logical detail, profound meaning and exceptional technical artistic craftsmanship ability which is exactly what has given the Mona Lisa painting world-wide recognition.
Art critics agree that Mona Lisa is the most recognized portrait-painting in the world, perhaps, that has ever existed. An even more fascinating element of this theory is that the painting may not even have been considered to be finished by Leonardo himself, who might have claimed that he has never finished a single work in his entire life.
It can be argued whether any of Leonardo's paintings are finished, or not. But according to a Wikipedia article, Giorgio Vasario, a da Vinci's conteporary, after lingering over the painting for four years, Leonardo left it unfinished.
If that's not enough, it is also reasonable to theorize about how long it has taken Da Vinci to paint Mona Lisa, but precise dating cannot be known. It is well-known, however, that the painting took several years to complete. Leonardo started painting it in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy.
Leonardo has continued to work on the painting after moving to France and finally finished it shortly until he died in 1519. This means that it can be speculated that Leonardo has worked on the painting for approximately 12 to 15 years. But that's a commonly false and mistaken assumption, because da Vinci did not spend all of that time painting it. A more specific and perhaps correct period of time that it took da Vinci to paint Mona Lisa is probably between 4 and 7 years, intermittently.
Why does the woman in this famous painting appears to be smiling? Why is it difficult to tell whether she is smiling or not? The answer lies in the creative ways Leonardo has chosen to paint this work. Sfumato is the painting technique, invented by Leonardo da Vinci. It can be described as using soft shadows to describe complex objects. As we focus our eyes on a picture painted in this fashion, our brain fails to make a conclusive representation of the object's shape.
The logical origin of this technique lies in the fact that many shadows painted on a human face, or body (any oval, rounded, or complex object) starts with a rough dark shadow, and as the paint travels over the surface of the object it is evenly dispersed into a translucent blur of shadow gradient at the edge of the object.
Leonardo's adventurous and creative use of this technique is what makes the face, and in particular, the lips of Mona Lisa appear to be smiling, as the viewer's eyes and brain struggle to define a definite edge of the mouth.
The painting's title stems from a description by Lonardo's contemporary Giorgio Vasari in his biography of Leonardo published in 1550, 31 years after the artist's death. In this biography, he states: "Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife...." (one version in Italian: Prese Lionardo a fare per Francesco del Giocondo il ritratto di mona Lisa sua moglie).
In the Italian language, ma donna means my lady. Donna became madonna, and its obvious contraction: mona. Mona is thus a polite form of address, similar to Ma’am, Madam, or my lady in English. In modern Italian, the short form of madonna is usually spelled Monna, so the title is sometimes Monna Lisa, but it is rare in English and more common in Romance languages such as French and Italian.
At his death in 1525, Leonardo's assistant Salai owned the portrait named in his personal papers la Gioconda which had been bequeathed to him by the artist. Italian for jocund, happy or jovial, Gioconda was a nickname for the sitter, a pun on the feminine form of her married name Giocondo and her disposition. In French, the title La Joconde has the same double meaning.
The painting's properties such as the proportion of the human and the human face are indeed extraordinary. This painting has been viewed by billions of people, many of whom agree, that by simply looking at it, the visual expression creates the feeling of total completeness, as if all elements of the image were engineered and therefore are a product of a meticulous thinking process.
This is not at all a surprise, if one is to consider that Leonardo da Vinci was also a thinker, inventor, engineer, mathematician, scientist, architect, sculptor, anatomist, geologist, botanist and writer. Despite the multitude of different developed talents, however, Leonardo is primarily renowned as a painter.