Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, mathematician, inventor and writer who lived for a lengthy 67 years, from 1452 – 1519, by standards of that time. This was an extraordinarily long time to live during the 1400s, as most people died by the age of 16, with the average life expectancy being only 35. He lived twice as long as any person was expected to.
Aside from the fact that two of his paintings, Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, are still coveted works over 5 centuries later, his physical longevity, too, is perfectly anomalous. Today, average life expectancy in the United States is nearly 80 years old. It is a super big deal if someone makes it to 110, never mind 160! In fact, the oldest person in the world is currently 115, which is not even 50% greater than expected life expectancy. If da Vinci were here today, the world would surely be perplexed by his incongruous longevity.
As surprising as his longevity was, the secrets revealed today regarding his most famous works are equally confounding. The Mona Lisa was completed between 1505 and 1507. Many have wondered why the subject seemed to have no eyebrows, or eyelashes, and often times this is regarded as an indication perhaps she was sick. Upon close inspection of this work, zooming in on the left eye reveals a single brush stroke near the eyebrow. This brushstroke has led to the discovery of one hair representing what many thought was a blank space where the eyebrow should be. This is also loosely construed as an indication that she was not sick, but rather just had light eyebrows.
The position of her right arm has been an issue studied for years. Her right arm lies across her abdominal region, and da Vinci was the first artist to paint a subject in such a way. The reasoning for this is elusive, however many after him have painted subjects in the same manner. In an attempt to better understand this positioning, many have studied the pigment as it matches up with the painted cover that drapes across her knee. It has been largely held that she was holding a blanket, and this is why her arm was positioned in such a way.
Infrared images of this storied painting have revealed a lot of beyond the layers of varnish. What was discovered through this imaging many speculate can be construed as indicative of him being human, and second-guessing himself. In looking at the position of her hand, the left hand reveals the first position of the finger, and then it appears he changed his mind and selected another position. This is regarded as him having hesitation, not exactly confident in his choices, as he was creating this timeless masterpiece. It is a myopic view into the psyche of one of the greatest artists of all time.
The advanced imaging today allows for even further study of details. It has been uncovered there was lace on her dress, certainly not apparent based on widespread mental perceptions of a woman with no eyebrows or eyelashes cloaked in brown. There is also a change in position of the left index and middle fingers. There is a left finger that was never completely finished.
Over the years the blotch marks, coupled with what many thought were a lack of eyebrows and eyelashes, could be representative of perhaps this subject being sick. Imaging has revealed, however, that these marks on her chin and corner of her eye were varnish accidents, and also not indicative of sickness.
The Last Supper, perhaps one of the most scrutinized paintings of all time, leaves many believing he included symbols in this painting that might have been serving the purpose of confusing the observer. This painting has contradictory symbols, like the fallen saltshaker, which traditionally symbolizes bad luck, might have been in the painting suggesting Judas was reversing his mischievous ways, and that he was rehabilitating himself. Judas also has an empty plate, which begs the question was he full, or was he the only one not fooled? The fish in this painting has also long been questioned. Was it eel, which in Italian is arringa, which means indoctrination, or it might have been herring. In Northern Italy, herring is renga, which also means someone who does not believe in religion.
Paradoxes loom large, and the restoration of this painting over the 2 decades, from 1979-1999, has served to showcase new details, and also has spurred more interpretations. The Last Supper is one of the most famous works of art of all time. It will likely never stop being studied, and unlike the Mona Lisa and its single subject matter , the paintings religious symbolism will likely have it studied, and interpreted, in perpetuity.
Time and Travel
It was the year 1503 that Leonardo di Vinci began working on the Mona Lisa and historians agree that it took the artist four years to complete. It was also documented that it did not leave the possession of Leonardo di Vinci for a long time. The true reason is not known, but it could have been that he hated the fact of parting with his most beloved work of art, as the Mona Lisa was truly one of his favorite pieces of art.
The Mona Lisa was originally sold to the King of France for a price of four thousand gold crowns. After the revolution, the Mona List was sent to the Louvre and for a short period of time, Napoleon took possession of the art. It was returned to the Louvre after Napoleon was banished.
Who was the Model for the famous Mona Lisa?
This question about the true inspiration behind the Mona Lisa has plagued historians and the common man for generation. There are many theories, but we do not know for sure who the model for this famous piece of artwork was. Some common theories include that the Mona Lisa was fashioned after Isabella of Aregan or Mona Lisa Gherardini (the 3rd wife the a rich silk merchant). Some theories also say that the Mona Lisa was a self-portrait of Leonardo di Vinci.
Whoever the model was, we do know that the artist was Leonardo di Vinci (even though this particular piece was not signed by the artist) and he was known for keeping his subjects calm, relaxed, comfortable and entertained with live music and his pets (a beautiful while Persian cat and a Greyhound dog).
The eyes and the lips are known to be the most expressive prats of a human face, but for the Mona Lisa – Leonardo di Vinci left these tell tail areas in the shadows to create a deliberate effect of non-emotion. The viewer has the opportunity to make their own conclusion of the sitters’ emotional state.
Leonardo di Vinci was a talented artists that was unique as well as brilliant. He bucked the traditional trends of the time by having the subject sit in a relaxed pose void of jewelry. A stiff pose adorned with jewels were traditional for many female centered paintings from that time period.
A masterpiece for the generations
During the year 1956, the Mona Lisa was damaged by acid and it took just as long to restore the painting to its original state as it did for Leonardo di Vinci to originally create the masterpiece.
Today the Mona Lisa lived at the Louvre in Paris, France where she is safety behind a bullet proof case and on display for viewing. The case that houses the Mona Lisa is kept at an even 68 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity percentage of 55. To ensure the safety and the beauty of the painting, the case is opened once a year to check the magnificent artwork and to ensure that the air conditioning system is functioning properly.