What tricks are applied in the painting that holds viewers so captive and make Mona Lisa appear so real?
Beyond his use of his 'sfumato' technique (with the utmost deliberation), everyone who has ever tried
to draw or scribble a face knows that what we call its expression rests mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes. Leonardo has left these features deliberately indistinct, letting
them merge into a soft shadow. This is why we are never quite certain in what mood Mona Lisa is. Her expression always seems to elude us. But there's a few more tricks being applied here...
What was the daring "risk" Da Vinci took as an artist to paint "Mona Lisa"?
Leonardo did a very daring thing, which perhaps only a painter of his consummate mastery could risk. If we look carefully at the picture, we see that the two sides do not quite match. This is most obvious in the background landscape. The horizon on the left side seems to lie much lower than the one on the right. As a result, when we focus on the left side of the picture, the woman looks somehow taller or more erect than if we focus on the right side. And her face, too, seems to change with this change of position, because, even here, the two sides do not quite match.
Forget what we know and drink in the mastery!
It is worth while to forget what we know, or believe we know, about the picture, and to look at it as if we were the first people ever to set eyes on it. What strikes us first is the amazing degree to which Lisa looks alive. She really seems to look at us and to have a mind of her own. Like a living being, she seems to change before our eyes and to look a little different every time we come back to her. Even in photographs of the picture this strange effect is experienced, but in front of the original in the Louvre it is almost uncanny. Sometimes she seems to mock at us, and then again we seem to catch something like sadness in her smile.
Where is she now?
All this sounds rather mysterious, and so it is; that is so often the effect of a great work of art. For more
information on Leonardo and his great works take time to visit some of the excellent links posted here, beginning with the Louvre in Paris where the Mona Lisa painting now resides.
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