I’ve never been a big fan of Mona Lisa. Certainly I appreciate a masterpiece when I see one. But I mean…as a person Mona does nothing for me. She seems like nice girl…but not really the outgoing type. But I don’t picture myself partying with Mona Lisa. You know what I mean?
Mona Lisa has been in the news several times over the years. One researcher claimed he figured out the exact spot where Leonardo Da Vinci sat her down and painted her portrait. Another person was convinced that the Mona Lisa was really Leonardo in drag and not really a woman at all. And even more recently another group of scientists x-rayed the painting and discovered that originally Mona was painted with her hair pinned up and not hanging down and that perhaps she was pregnant with child when the portrait was painted.
Well now even bigger news has broke as several historians are convinced they discovered the burial place of Leonardo’s most enduring model. Art sleuth Giuseppe Pallanti made the discovery and broke the code so-to-speak after pouring over hundreds of ancient manuscripts that reads like a scene lifted straight out of the Dan Brown bestseller. Following Pallanti’s discovery, Da Vinci experts are now calling for Mona’s coffin to be raised to examine the DNA of her remains and solve the final mystery – her enigmatic smile.
According to an article in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica (19 Jan 2007), Pallanti made his announcement at a packed press conference in the Renaissance city of Florence, saying that documents showed that Lisa Gherardini – a.k.a Mona Lisa — is buried in the run down ruins of the city’s former Convent of St Orsula in the very heart of the city. You better believe the Convent may be run down now…but give it a month or two and Florence is gonna have another tourist attraction.
So what’s the real proof, you ask? Well – let’s start with the name. We Yanks (and most everyone else) know the famous thin-lipped model as Mona Lisa but in Italy she is known as La Giocanda. “Giocanda” being the feminine version of her husband’s surname Giocondo. In Italy, you drop the “o” and replace it with an “a” with respect to a persons sex.
Pallanti — according to an article issued by the Ansa News Agency (www.anza.it) — Mona Lisa was the wife of merchant Francesco Del Giocondo – and she lived right opposite Leonardo on Via Ghibellina.
Historians ascertained that Lisa Gherardini was indeed the model, as records from the time reflect that she married Francesco Del Gioconda in 1495 when she was 16 and he was 35 years old. An age disparity not too uncommon in Italy back then, and even today for that matter (although now the girl would have to be at least 18).
But on to the nitty-gritty. The how’s and why’s surrounding the Mona Lisa has at least as many theories as does the Kennedy assassination or whether or not Apollo astronauts really landed on the moon. Some historians claim that Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to painta portrait of his Mona Lisa — and by the way “Mona” is the standard Italian contraction for madonna, which more or less translates to “my lady” or “my woman” (who says you don’t learn things on Associated Content?) — the portrait meant to mark his wife’s pregnancy or the recent birth of their second child in December 1502.
So much for the portrait being done, but what about that thin-lipped, fake “I’m-not-really-enjoying-this” smile? Some historians have argued the painting is a self-portrait of Leonardo himself. And that the smile was Leo’s way of saying “Ha! I pulled one over on you!” While other theories say Mona was really one of Da Vinci’s favorite male lovers in disguise — the evidence they say is the fact Da Vinci kept the portrait with him until his death in Amboise, France in 1519.
All I can say to that is great — another Renaissance icon turns out to be gay. Not that it matters (cuz it doesn’t) but I half expect scientists to uncover some cryptic autograph on the Mona Lisa that reads — “To Leo…what a man…!”
But I digress.
The most curious theories about Mona’s smile or lack-there-of have been provided by medical experts turned Renaissance art sleuths.
According to Italy Magazine (www.italymag.co.uk) — one theory is that the Mona Lisa’s mouth is clamped firmly shut because she was undergoing mercury treatment for syphilis which turned her teeth black. And believe me, if you’ve ever had syphilis and black teeth, you don’t feel like smiling.
An American dentist — meanwhile — claims that the tight-lipped expression was typical of people who have lost their front teeth, while a Danish doctor was convinced she suffered from congenital palsy which affected the left side of her face and this is why her hands are overly large.
Here’s a no-brainer. How about back in the 1500’s it just wasn’t deemed correct for women to go around flashing their teeth? The same cultural mores existed in Japan and may still for all I know. But this reason of thinking obviously isn’t as exciting as thinking that the Mona Lisa is really Leonardo Da Vinci decked out in cheese-cloth and high heels.
Despite it all, the apparent discovery of Mona Lisa’s burial place has been met with much aplomb — and the next step hope scientists — is that with Mona’s remains, scientists can “rebuild” her, much the same way the scientists over at National Geographic do when they discover the remains of yet another caveman or woman.
Then maybe we’ll discover what the heck she (or he) was really smiling about.