Mona Lisa…And Why is it so famous?

At some point in your life, boring or not, you must have heard of Mona Lisa, Leornado Da Vinci or both. If you haven’t, it’s either you’ve been in a coma for the better part of your life or you have a Mowgli background story somehow.But whatever the case, read on.

Mona Lisa is a 500 year old portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine silk merchant, painted by the quintessence renaissance, Leaornado Da Vinci and took about three years (1503 – 1506) in it’s making.

But still, why is it so popular? It’s certainly not the oldest painting out there and portraits of more prominent people have been painted. Turns out that it is not famous for just one particular reason and yours truly is about to let you in on this piece of privy information.

First of all, Mona Lisa was painted using the Sfumato technique. Sfumato technique in painting is used for produce fine shading to produce soft transition between colours and tones. Leonardo da Vinci had to tediously apply paints in thin layers; he’d draw one layer, wait for it to dry and then draw over it (talk about patience, I feel like punching a hole through my laptop screen each time it hangs). The fact that Sfumato is practiced by very few people show how tedious it is.

Another thing about this masterpiece is, Mona Lisa turns her face! Well, not like you would when you hear your name while you are walking. The background of the portrait to the left of the main figure and to the right of the main figure are not the same. They follow the same color scheme and appear to be a single landscape; but the landscape to the left is closer than the landscape painted on the right, and the face lies right in the middle of the two. So her eyes literally follow you when you move around. Creepy right? I wonder if JK Rowlings got her idea of Harry Potter portraits from here (definitely food for thought). The technique used to achieve this effect is called Sliberlick in German (which roughly translates to silver-glance/silver-look).

The painting contains another optical illusion “The Uncatchable Smile”. Yes, uncatchable. The smile on Leornado da Vinci’s portrait of Mona Lisa is enigmatic; it’s there and then it isn’t. Turns out Mona Lisa’s smile can only be seen from a certain angle, from another angle the smile fades away and looks well, less contented. Scientists have looked into the mystery for years and have concluded that this optical illusion was deliberately added by Da Vinci, the perception of the smile depends on the sharpness of the image and the distance it was viewed from, and also the mood of the viewer. You are probably wondering “How can one painting cause so much fuss?”, me too.

The painting is housed in The Louvre, the world’s largest art museum. Its theft in 1911 caused a media frenzy that made the painting a lot more famous and its reproductions in the 20th and 21st century added to its popularity.

Ladies and gentlemen I’m about to blow your mind now. Mona Lisa was assessed US$100M as at December 1962, taking inflation into account this will about US$800M as at 2017. BOOM! So a dead guy’s painting of a normal middle-aged, middle-class woman is worth EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS! Why did I even study Engineering? I should have been an artist or a model that poses for portraits or both if that’s possible.