Art Criticism of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Table of Contents

  • Description
  • Formal Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Evaluation

Art Criticism (sometimes referred to as Art Critique) is the discussion or evaluation of a work of visual art. It is tied to theory; it is interpretive, involving the effort to understand a particular work of art using the Elements of Art and Principles of Design. The four steps in Art Criticism are: Description, Formal Analysis, Interpretation, and Evaluation/Judgement. You may use this sheet for your final or write your critique in an essay format. Please place the image of your work on this document.

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The portrait shows a woman sitting upright, turned to the side, face and chest slightly turned towards the front. Her arm rests on the armrest of the chair and is held by the other hand. The background behind her appears as though she is on a hill, or above the landscape. A birds-eye view. Leonardo Da Vinci uses different hues of blue and some red in the background, and there is no vanishing point in the background. There is depth, although there is no clear definition between the rocky horizon to the right, compared to the flatlands stretching away on the left. This unclear depth does bring her into focus and allows us to distinguish her from being in the background or the foreground. Da Vinci uses browns and greens to compose her garments, and an olive toned yellow for her skin. The genre of this artwork is portrait.

Formal Analysis

The focal point of the work is Lisa. She is the largest and single figure in the painting, and her face is in the center of the painting. There are light and dark tones in the painting. You are automatically drawn to her. Then if you follow her eyes, you look to the right, and focus on the background. You see the background is a little brighter with its use of blue and red, and you see that the background is an aerial view.


Because Lisa is resting her arm on the rest, she appears to be leaning forward, almost out of the painting at you. Her eyes seem to not be looking at you, but through you. Her smile gives more life to the painting. I think the artist was trying to say that he had developed feelings for this woman. He made her feel comfortable enough to relax. He depicts her with a blank expression except for the smile, and dresses her in dark colors, which makes me he felt depressed, and through his use of dark scheme colors, he depicted that she (her smile) was a light in the dark. You also see that the background is an aerial view and this could mean that with her around, as portraits take a while to paint, he feels elated with her around, above the world and higher than life with her, even though she was married and a noble, and he was born to a peasant woman from an informal relation with a nobleman.


I think the author was successful in creating the portrait of Lisa. He portrayed her in dark colors, but the smile she had seems to bring out a lighter, softer feeling. Compared to works of the time, his were similar in that he painted a noblewoman, someone from a wealthy family, however he did not paint her inside of a palace or in such formal clothing. She wears the clothing of an ordinary woman, no jewels, or her sitting on a throne, and she sits in a position that is not tight and rigid like most royal portraits are painted. However, I still think he was successful in this work because he painted her smirk/smile that would be talked about hundreds of years later.

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