Prior to Giorgio Vasari’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, the Mona Lisa was known simply as La Gioconda or “A Certain Florentine Lady.” In time, however, the popular theory of the Mona Lisa’s identity became one Madam Lisa Giocondo, the wife to an affluent man from Florence, Italy. But Giorgio Vasari is famous for sprinkling fiction into his factual works, and as a result his testimony is largely considered questionable at best.
In addition, there are no emblems on the painting identifying it as belonging to any particular person. Also, a scan of Leonardo Da Vinci’s financial papers turns up nothing indicating it was contracted by anyone.
For more than four years Da Vinci carried the portrait around with him wherever he traveled and worked on it night after night obsessively, only parting with it upon his death. After death the painting was not delivered, and no one came forth to claim it only lending more to the mystery. What was worth the meticulous and obsessive time of this brilliant painter? The brilliant master artisan whose aspirations were once to build a machine that would finally allow man to break the bonds of gravity and soar the heavens would spend his final days working on a painting that while world famous would never make him a single penny. And with any mystery surrounding the master creator of his time, theories abound as to its true meaning, some bordering on the downright bizarre.
The Mona Lisa’s smile alone has been the subject of countless articles, books, poems, and songs attributed to it. An interesting thing to note about it is that every other person who sees the smile says it is something different. Some say the Mona Lisa looks disgusted, while others say she is inviting perhaps even flirtatious while still others say she simply is holding a tight yet genuine smile.
The smile itself is painted in low tones meaning it looks better when seen in the periphery of vision when looking at the eyes, which will continue to look at viewers no matter where they stand in relation to it. Of course this optical illusion is likely intentional. And many say the image indicates a self portrait that perhaps Da Vinci painted of himself in a mirror. Could the great inventor and painter have never required a subject for this painting because he himself would place a mirror nearby when studying the details of the image and merely paint himself? Spectral analysis of the image has turned up several similarities from The Mona Lisa and other images, such as John The Baptist. In fact, a combination of various images painted by Da Vinci point out striking similarities between his subjects. Could they all have been simply him?
Other theories behind the painting are that it was a young student of him wearing drag, an illegitimate daughter, Isabella of Aragon, and Constanza d’Avalos. Studies by physicians of the painting indicate the cheeks and hands of the woman indicate that she is likely pregnant or somehow maternal in nature. This is particularly interesting to the time since there is no wedding band on the figure’s finger. Perhaps this is indicative of a deeper mystery that Da Vinci took with him to his grave.