The Mona Lisa Portrait

I haven’t seen it in person but can tell from this high-quality photo that it is truly a masterpiece.

Mona Lisa – Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

This portrait was doubtless started in Florence around 1503. It is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo – hence the alternative title, La Gioconda. However, Leonardo seems to have taken the completed portrait to France rather than giving it to the person who commissioned it. After his death, the painting entered François I’s collection.

Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco Giocondo

The history of the Mona Lisa is shrouded in mystery. Among the aspects which remain unclear are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo worked on the painting, how long he kept it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection.
The portrait may have been painted to mark one of two events – either when Francesco del Giocondo and his wife bought their own house in 1503, or when their second son, Andrea, was born in December 1502 after the death of a daughter in 1499. The delicate dark veil that covers Mona Lisa’s hair is sometimes considered a mourning veil. In fact, such veils were commonly worn as a mark of virtue. Her clothing is unremarkable. Neither the yellow sleeves of her gown, nor her pleated gown, nor the scarf delicately draped around her shoulders are signs of aristocratic status.

A new artistic formula

The Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait. The painting is generous enough in its dimensions to include the arms and hands without them touching the frame. The portrait is painted to a realistic scale in the highly structured space where it has the fullness of volume of a sculpture in the round. The figure is shown in half-length, from the head to the waist, sitting in a chair whose arm is resting on balusters. She is resting her left arm on the arm of the chair, which is placed in front of a loggia, suggested by the parapet behind her and the two fragmentary columns framing the figure and forming a “window” looking out over the landscape. The perfection of this new artistic formula explains its immediate influence on Florentine and Lombard art of the early 16th century. Such aspects of the work as the three-quarter view of a figure against a landscape, the architectural setting, and the hands joined in the foreground were already extant in Flemish portraiture of the second half of the 15th century, particularly in the works of Hans Memling. However, the spatial coherence, the atmospheric illusionism, the monumentality, and the sheer equilibrium of the work were all new. In fact, these aspects were also new to Leonardo’s work, as none of his earlier portraits display such controlled majesty.

An emblematic smile

The Mona Lisa’s famous smile represents the sitter in the same way that the juniper branches represent Ginevra Benci and the ermine represents Cecilia Gallerani in their portraits, in Washington and Krakow respectively. It is a visual representation of the idea of happiness suggested by the word “Gioconda” in Italian. Leonardo made this notion of happiness the central motif of the portrait: it is this notion that makes the work such an ideal. The nature of the landscape also plays a role. The middle distance, on the same level as the sitter’s chest, is in warm colors. Men live in this space: there is a winding road and also a bridge. This space represents the transition between the space of the sitter and the far distance, where the landscape becomes a wild and uninhabited space of rocks and water which stretches to the horizon, which Leonardo has cleverly drawn at the level of the sitter’s eyes.

Powerful Historical Figures In Modern Garb

Texas-based graphic designer and artist Becca Saladi offers a modern take on dozens of history’s most powerful people in her portrait series, “Royalty Now.”

The following portraits imagine some of history’s royalty in modern guise. Can you still spot their power?

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, succeeded to the throne in 336 BCE at age 20.


Alexander Hamilton was a founding father and creator of the US banking system.

Anne Boylen was a witch who seduced the king to some, and to others, she was a charming, witty, and intelligent woman.

Aristotle was a great philosopher who lived in Greece from 384 to 322 BC.


Composer Ludwig van Beethoven is shown here at age 49 in an 1820 portrait. Saladin’s modern version is tie-less but just as intense.

Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great, was Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796 — the country’s longest-ruling female leader. Under her rule, Russia thrived, becoming one of the main powers of Eurasia. Catherine was a supporter of the arts, humanities, and a supporter of the Enlightenment.

Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom, lived from 69 to 30 BC. She was part of the Ptolemaic dynastic, a Hellenistic dynasty ruling Egypt — so her skin would be lighter than the typical Egyptian.


Queen Elizabeth 1 was a long-reigning queen and was 42 at the time she sat for this portrait.

George Washington served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797.

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547, a tumultuous period. He famously had six wives, favorite subjects of Saladin for this series.

Jane Seymour was Queen of England from 1536 to 1537. She was the third wife of Henry VIII and the mother of the future king, Edward VI.

Julius Caesar – This reconstruction is based on one of his famous busts. The artist has taken care to portray Caesar as you might expect a respected successful business executive.

Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI, was the last queen of France before the French Revolution. She was convicted of high treason and executed by guillotine in October 1793.

Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius), lived from 83 to 30 BC. He was an influential Roman military leader and politician during the pivotal time in Roman history when the empire was transitioning from a Republic to an autocratic Empire.

Mona Lisa – This painting is one of the most famous portraits of the Italian Renaissance by Leonardo Da Vinci, painted in the first years of the 16th century. The subject’s identity is a matter of fierce speculation and debate. It is said by some to be the likeness of an Italian noblewoman, but there are many detractors to that theory. The painting hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

Napoleon the 18th-19th century French military leader and emperor.

Nefertiti, an Egyptian queen and the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, lived from approximately 1370 to 1330 BC.

Pocahontas lived from around 1596 to 1617. She was a Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, and travels to England. She was the daughter of the chief Powhatan, chief of a network of tribes in the Tsenacommacah, encompassing the Tidewater region of Virginia.

Shaka Zulu was a powerful South African King, ruling over the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. He was a master of social and propagandistic political methods, as well as a great warrior when he decided to engage. He is often depicted holding the distinctive spear and shield of the Zulu warriors.

Simón Bolívar was known as El Libertador. He was a Venezuelan leader who led what are currently the states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to independence from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s.