Mona Lisa is a mystery among many, from her smile to her pregnancy theory, but the major mystery itself is who was Mona Lisa. The poser is believed to be da Vinci’s mother, Caterina; Princess Isabella of Naples; a Spanish noble woman named Costanza d’ Avalos; an unnamed courtesan; a younger version of Leonardo da Vinci himself; his apprentice Salaí; an alien; a hermaphrodite; Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo or simply a man. (Nix) No one truly knows who Mona Lisa is as these are all theories, some with more evidence than others. What is known is that the Mona Lisa is the best recognized, most visited and famous painting in the world painted by Leonardo da Vinci on an oil pastel on a popular panel between 1503 and 1506. (Wonderopolis) However, based off the news articles, countless years of research and documentaries it is best to conclude that the Mona Lisa is most likely Lisa Giocondo.
Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo or Lisa Giocondo for short was a wealthy silk merchant’s wife that had 5 children. She is the leading contender for the Mona Lisa. Her husband supposedly wanted her to pose as Mona Lisa to have Leonardo da Vinci commemorate her being pregnant with their 5th child. “The English title ‘Mona Lisa’ comes from the subject’s name and the Italian word ‘mona’ that means ‘my lady.’”(Wonderopolis) In French her last name, “La Joconde”, means happy or jovial. The evidence beyond her being a lady, and her name fitting the role, a note was found by Agostino Vespucci written in 1503 claiming Lisa Giocondo was the poser for the Mona Lisa. (Wikipedia)
Leonardo’s mother, Caterina has also been claimed to be the Mona Lisa. “Sigmund Freud claimed that the iconic painting was inspired by da Vinci’s mother, in his 1910 essay, “A Childhood Reminiscence of Leonardo da Vinci.” (Muñoz-Alonso) An art historian, Angelo Paratico states that he believes a Chinese landscape depicts the paintings background and that Mona Lisa’s face looks Chinese. Caterina is believed to be a Chinese oriental slave that gave birth to Leonardo in 1452. She had to be removed from her home because of an improper relationship with her master, but its believed that she reunited with her son and then posed for the Mona Lisa.
Leonardo was an artist of his century and many more yet to come; his painting, the Mona Lisa, changed the way the world views art. “Leonardo viewed Mona Lisa as his masterpiece drawn from peace, sincerity, nature and fascination brought out with her portrait amongst the streams, broken rocks and winding paths.” (Ripley 44) “Perhaps it was the knowing smile of Leonardo himself, for he wrote in his ‘Treatise on Painting’ that the painter is so influenced by his own character that ‘it guides the painter’s arm and makes him reproduce himself.’” (Ripley 44) “When Leonardo began the portrait of the young woman, Mona Lisa was 24, and she was 30 when the portrait was finished.” (Ripley 44) The painter Leonardo was very fond of him and took time with his works, which is why some people say he copied a portrait of himself in the likeness of a woman.
Salaí was one of Leonardo da Vinci’s apprentices. He is the one that ended up with the Mona Lisa before it went to King Francis I of France and then a museum in Paris. (Wikipedia) Salaí loved painting nude pictures of the Mona Lisa such as the “Monna Vanna”. (Wikipedia) Salaí is known to have facial features very similar to the Mona Lisa regarding his nose and mouth placement compared to the portrait. “Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Orena is Salaí’s real name that translates to “The Devil, and “The little unclean one.” (Wikipedia) Salaí in the end was the 2nd lead poser of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa because he became his life long servant at 10 and possible love interest.
My stance on the conspiracy theory is that the Mona Lisa is obviously a woman of mystery and misconception. Her poser is Lisa Giocondo or Leonardo himself. Lisa Giocondo has more concrete evidence than Leonardo himself such as documentation and recent fingerprints they found in Leo’s home. “Is the Mona Lisa an ‘accurate’ representation of the actual human model for the painting? Who knows? Who cares? It’s a great piece of art. It moves us. It makes us wonder, makes us gape – finally makes us look inward at ourselves.” (Tim O’brien) The Mona Lisa in my book will always be a mind-bending piece that changed the world.
At first, someone may glance at the Mona Lisa and notice her smile, but then contemplate who she really is. No matter how much evidence a person may display there will always be conspirists amongst the Mona Lisa. Lisa, Caterina, Leonardo himself and Salaí as posers are all just theories some tested more than others. “Every work of art belongs to his time. I would not paint again the Mona Lisa in the third dimension.”
(Alejandro Jodorowsky) A painting questioned numerous times, confirmed to be Lisa Giocondo, a mystery or conspiracy sometimes gets an end, but with who posed for the Mona Lisa, its what you make of it.
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