Scientists in Florence are examining the bones of a 16th century nun they think served as the model for the Mona Lisa.
Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo was the wife of a wealthy merchant and is rumored to have been the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait. She was a famed beauty in her time and lived across the street from the famous artist and inventor. When her husband died she became a nun at the convent of San Orsula in Florence, where she died and was buried in 1542.
A team of scientists went looking for her in a crypt under the convent. DNA in the bones they found is now being compared with samples taken from the Gherardini family tomb in hopes of finding a match. The next step will be facial reconstruction to see what the woman looked like in life. Perhaps they’ll find the mystery to her enigmatic smile.
Facial reconstruction and DNA analysis have already been done for the remains of King Richard III, found last year under an English parking lot. Researchers are also examining the possible remains of King Alfred the Great.
Nearly every visitor to Paris‘ Louvre Museum will tell you that, once they fight through the crowds to see her, it is surprising how small the famous “Mona Lisa” painting is in person. Today’s Photo of the Day shows both the crowds of tourists eager to photograph her, and the relative scale of da Vinci’s lady (30 x 21 inches, if you are wanted to know) to other paintings in the museum. It reminds me of an exhibition by German artist Thomas Struth, who documented museum visitors all over the world, making them the subjects rather than the artwork. We get a sense of perspective about museums, art and travel, and it makes you think maybe you should just get a postcard of the popular portrait rather than take the same crowded photo as millions before you.
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[Photo credit: Flickr user Kumakulanui]
The wonders of the modern world define our travels. Whether we admit it or not, there’s something heroic about standing on top of the Great Wall of China or hiking up to the crest above Machu Pichu for the trademark photograph. It’s those photos that fuel our travels and that convince our friends and families to make the same trips. It’s also those photos that define our perceptions of a destination and, in a way, cloud them.
What’s missing in most destination photos, though, is context. The Taj Mahal is a celebration of architecture and beauty in northern India, but the surrounding neighborhoods have developed an economy that is known for taking advantage of tourists. The Mona Lisa, shown above, is often buried by eager tourists.
To illustrate this contrast we put together a series of destination images before and after – as we see them on postcards and then in real life. At worst, the photos show how crowded and hectic some of the world’s destinations can sometimes be. But we prefer to think of them in a different light: they’re the destinations in real life, complete with tourist, busker and hawker. In a way, it’s a more complete story.
[flickr image via thms.nl]
London’s National Gallery is hosting an exhibition of the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. The show, titled Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, focuses on the paintings of the famous genius rather than his many other projects. It brings together nine of the only 15 or 16 paintings known to be his. The gallery boasts that it’s the most complete collection of his paintings ever shown.
The Mona Lisa is not among them. Personally I consider it Da Vinci’s least compelling work. Perhaps that’s just because I’ve seen it too much, or maybe I was influenced by my art history teacher who, while giving us a slideshow on Renaissance art, got to the Mona Lisa and wearily said, “The Mona Lisa. Is she smiling or isn’t she? Who cares?” and then went on to the next slide. Maybe if she went into the theory that it shows Da Vinci in drag I would have been more interested.
One of the paintings on display is Christ as Salvator Mundi, which is the subject of a heated debate within art circles as to whether it’s by Da Vinci or one of his students. Hanging beside known works of Da Vinci, you’ll have the chance to judge for yourself.
Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan runs until 5 February 2012.
Photo of the Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani courtesy Web Gallery of Art.
It’s the most iconic painting ever made. The Mona Lisa, painted in the early 16th century by Leonardo Da Vinci, has inspired a whole genre of painting. Perhaps the first imitation was this one by Gian Giacomo Caprotti, Da Vinci’s favorite pupil.
Since then the Mona Lisa has been reproduced on countless coffee mugs, handbags, t-shirts, mousepads, even toothpaste.
Now the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College is examining this artistic obsession with Mona Lisa Unveiled, an exhibition that traces the influence of Mona Lisa on subsequent artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Jean Margat, and Salvador Dalì.
The painting inspired thieves too. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. An Italian named Vincenzo Peruggia hid in a broom closet until the museum closed, and then made off with the painting. He later claimed he wanted it returned to its native Italy. He fled to Florence and kept it in his apartment for two years before trying to sell it to a local gallery. The art dealer did the right thing and called the cops. Peruggia was hailed as an Italian hero and only did a few months in prison.
Mona Lisa Unveiled runs through October 7.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]