The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is a masterpiece from the high classical renaissances of France. This is an oil on wood portrait landscape that depicts what art historians believe to be a woman from the noble class. This art piece is the most iconic and visited painting of all time. It’s popularity stems from the ambiguous facial expression depicted in the woman’s face; many presume it’s a smirk while other believe she is frowning. In his painting, Mona Lisa, Da Vinci employs composition, atmospheric perspective and sfumato to produce an image of mystery.
Leonardo Da Vinci utilizes composition in this enigmatic landscape portrait by centering the Mona Lisa in the middle of the painting. The women figure takes up a huge portion of the small size painting and is depicted in a frontal view. The composition is organized using the placement of her body which vertically bisects the composition into 2 halves that are equidistant to one another. Her body is in an angled pose known as a three-quarter pose while her face is directly positioned at the viewer which builds a sense of mystery to what she is actually looking at. Also, her body and face are placed in two distinct settings in the background. Her body is drawn in an inhabitant land while her faces is rendered in an unearthly and out of the world setting. Also, the artist outlines the women figure in a triangular composition that balances the painting. The triangle crescendo’s upward which guides the viewer’s eyes from figures body up to her face.
Moreover, the artist establishes pictorial space in the form of atmospheric perspective to render depth and 3-deminsioanlity onto a flat 2-demsional painting. The objects in the background such as the water, mountain, cliff, and the road are receding backwards into the space and therefore appear much smaller; this allows for figure in the foreground to appear bigger and be the main focus of the painting. The objects in the far distances have haziness to them that becomes blueish-grey; this is how our away renders far away objects. The background of the landscape divides into two different worlds. The first world is in the bottom of the painting up to the figure body which consists of red lands and mountains, a bridge and an endless road. The endless road adds to the perplexing image and can have many interpretations. The artist deliberately inserts illogical structures to the painting such the endless road and the bridge in the middle of nowhere to make the image up to self-interpretation and essentially leave it as a mystery. The second world he depicts a river, and grey cliffs which looks imaginary compared to the first world. The inclusion of two different world’s or setting in the background builds a sense of uncertainty that makes the image mystifying and puzzling.
Furthermore, Da Vinci demonstrates sfumato; the blending of light, shade and colors without defines boundaries to build a mysterious landscape. The use of sfumato can be clearly seen through transition of light to dark from the Mona Lisa’s face and chest to her hair. The use of lighting and shading gives the figure a physical appearance. Also, the blending of colors in the Mona Lisa’s face gives the figure a refined and subtle facial feature that is quite mysterious; especially when focusing on her eye and lips. When viewing at the painting from an angle, her lips appear as she is smiling, Also, the shadowing around her eyes suggest a perception of a smile. However, when looking at the painting in a straight line, directly at the Mona Lisa’s mouth, our eyes cannot see the shading which suggest a less apparent smile. The blending of shade through the use of Sfumato results in the different interpretations of the Mona Lisa’s facial expression; whether she is smiling or even frowning. This obscurity and ambivalence about the depiction of the Mona Lisa both hint towards the mystery of the paining which is a recurrent theme produced by de Vinci throughout the painting.
Overall, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Di Vinci still retains its popularity and prominence tell this day. It’s enigmatic portrait of a seated noble figure that appears both smiling and frowning depending on how you look at certainly build up its merit and allows the viewer to engage with the painting on a personal level. All in all, the balanced composition, atmospheric perspective, and the use of sfumato all contribute to the mystery of the paining.