(A full-size version of this image is here)
- Where did "Mona Lisa" come from?: This fine femme has caused quite a sensation in popular culture. "Mona Lisa" comes from a tradition of portraits in the Renaissance. There were no cameras then, so wealthy people had their portraits made at their lavish residences, wearing their fine clothes and "bling" as an inventory and display of the expensive stuff that they owned. An example is Raphael's portrait of Maddalena Strozzi, who is wearing colorful fine clothes and a lots of jewelry. Similarly, "Mona Lisa" is Lisa di Gherardo. Closer look: Lisa's portrait is unique because it is so understated. Her hands show that her clothes are made of expensive materials but they are not gaudy. Furthermore, she is not wearing any ostentatious bracelets or rings. (See close-up below)
- Smile for the camera: "Mona Lisa" is famous for her enigmatic smile. Just slight changes in brush strokes and the sensitivity of our retina cells can change the viewer's perception of whether or not she is smiling. According to an emotion-recognition algorithm, she is 83% happy. Closer look: The ambiguity is due to the edges of her mouth, which are very light and abruptly fade out. You can decide for yourself. (See close-up below)
- Smoke and mirrors: The Renaissance was a time of lots of scientific study in mathematics and optics (light, perspective, etc.). Da Vinci and other artists sought to capture images as a viewer would really see them. One example is the use of sfumato (meaning "smoke") which is kind of a big deal in Renaissance art. It means that all light areas and dark areas smoothly blend/transition into one another. (A complete opposite of this is high-contrast photography.) Another example of science in art is the use of math and optics for perspective. To show off his mad skills in sfumato and perspective but make his paintings look natural (not contrived), his paintings are often set in dark places like the woods or under arches. The setup of "Virgin of the Rocks" may look familiar to you now! Closer look: In the background landscape, the mountains get smaller and more blurry in the distance, the way you would perceive them in real life. (See close-up below)
3 Ways To Show Off This Knowledge To a Special Someone
- In Paris: You two just happen to be in Paris. One or both of your mothers said you just HAVE to go to the Louvre. As camera flashes go off like crazy in the gallery and all the other tourists say to one another, in their respective languages, "That's it?! The painting is so small. Where's the bathroom?" you then swoop in and save the day, whispering to your Special Someone the 3 aforementioned things that he or she might not already know about it.
- Deciding what movie to see: You can suggest "Mona Lisa Smile." Even if has nothing to do with the painting (I haven't seen the movie) it's still a great segue to dropping one of the 3 aforementioned points.
- At Tiffany's or the Apple Store: When that Special Someone is hinting for some super expensive item, you can say, "Well, Mona Lisa wasn't wearing that stuff and gosh she's super famous now. And she's priceless. Like you, babe."
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