Mona Lisa, and the secret behind her smile


Mona Lisa. Her smile is famous in the whole wide world and yet people still wonder… ‘Why was she smiling? What could she possibly have been thinking about?’. Needless to say, in that period people seldom smiled in paintings. Obviously only wealthy people afforded portraits, and with them they wished to exhibit their power and wealth. Hence the question is raised again: What could be the reason for that playful smile? But this remained a mystery and  I just assumed I could never find out what occupied her thoughts so as to lead to such a divine smile.

Today, however, I was bewitched with an answer. I’ve been reading Giorgio Vasari’s ‘Life of the artists’ , and I have to add I really enjoy the humorous anecdotes about the artists and his perception of art. But back to Mona Lisa, I have to admit I’ve always attributed her smile to her thoughts. But I never, and underline never, thought that her smile could be a result of what was going on around her. According to Vasari,

” (Leonardo) employed singers and musicians or jesters to keep her full of merriment and so chase away the melancholy that painters usually give to portraits. As a result, in this painting of Leonardo’s there was a smile so pleasing that it seemed divine rather than human…”

So  Leonardo not only did his best to portray her as accurate as possible, highlighting her personality as well as her wealth and social position, but he also tried to please and entertain her in the process. We all know how tiring it can be to stay still for such a long time, and Leonardo undertook the task of keeping her spirits up, acknowledging how by improving her spirits he would also improve the portrait. The result is one of the most famous paintings in history!


2 responses to “Mona Lisa, and the secret behind her smile

  1. What a brilliant anecdote! It explains a great deal 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog earlier. Glad you like Degas too. I’m fascinated by his rehearsal paintings.

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