One of the most recognized images in human history is the painting of the Mona Lisa. It sits alongside the Christian Cross and the Mcdonald’s Golden Arches (to make a sad comparison).
However the story of the Mona Lisa has become a whispered joke in the art world, one that inevitably ends with Leonardo Da Vinci himself as the punchline. At one point his rumored ‘lifestyle preferences’ were used as an insult, but as debasement has progressed from the 20th c to the 21st (from insult to ascendency) they are now positively a virtue. Today, these (still unfounded) accusations are a vehicle to associate a long-gone past (which is only barely understood and largely alien) to dogma’s and identities of the present.
Most people familiar with art are aware of the insinuations made towards Da Vinci, regarding his sexual improprieties. These are based on accusations of sodomy (punishable then by death) from an anonymous report to the Florentine authorities, made when Leonardo was just 24. The charges were dropped, yet that is the basis for their theory (that and his lifelong bachelorhood). Modern historians, desperate to make as much of the past as gay as possible, seize upon this as further proof that not only was Leonardo a homosexual, but that his most famous work, the Mona Lisa, is a representation of himself in drag!
Everything it seems we turn our gaze to today must be viewed through the lens of daytime television critique, all of history now is a kind of soap opera of sexual innuendo, and not even the greatest geniuses to have walked the planet are safe from a ‘Doctor Phil-ing’ via our base hindsight. All that can be said for certain, is that Leonardo was a private man, obsessive about his work, who saw even love and lust as a distraction from scientific research, geometry, mathematics, painting, sculpture, and writing.
Regarding his most famous work, what is known at this point is that there are two paintings of the Mona Lisa. The first one was for Guliano De Medici, of the famous Medici Banking family. This is of no surprise as the Medici family were famously the high patrons of Floerentine art and the rennaissance itself. This is most likely when Leonardo first spent a lot of time with Lisa Gherandini Giocondo, better known to the world as “The Mona Lisa”.
Lisa herself was born to an aristocratic family that had fallen on hard times, and was married to a wealthy merchant by the name of Francesco Giocondo who was very much her senior. They would go on to have five children together, and around the time of their fifth and final child, his second son (Giocondo Del Giocondo) Francesco Giocondo Commissioned Leonardo to paint his wife’s portrait. What is not known is if Francesco was aware that Guliano Medici had commissioned Da Vinci to paint his wife previously.
When it was all said and done Francesco never received the painting of his wife, as Leonardo Fled Florence and carried the painting around with him in a case for the rest of his life. Some say it was out of understanding of the mangitude of the work, that he could not bear to part with it, and continued working on it for years, and often taking repose to gaze at it.
The Mona Lisa caused a stir in the art world when it was introduced, and still does today. More recently a preparatory sketch which rendered Lisa naked was discovered and attributed to the master. Rendering the married woman as nude was perhaps controversial, though such poses were considered more ‘classical’ than lascivious.
What is more interesting is that in the final painting Lisa is doing a subtle gesture with her hand, holding up her frock which in the times of the early renaissance was a symbol of “with child” (as depicted by Van Eeyk in his wedding paintings). This makes Lisa’s smile seem telling, as though she holds a secret. Mainstream history academics now admit that Lisa was pregnant or had just given birth during the painting.
Another bizarre happening is the Artist Raphael did a Portrait of the Mona Lisa as a drawing, most likely meaning, Raphael sat in with Leonardo on a day Lisa was present. This must have been a day Leonardo was working on her clothes, as the hairstyle in Raphael’s version is different than Leonardo’s. In Raphael’s drawing he seems unsure as how to depict her frock-holding hand, did Raphael also know Lisa was pregnant? What did Raphael know about Lisa and Leonardo?
From the start of Leonardo’s time rendering Lisa Giocondo, I would say they were in close proximity with each other for about an 8 year period, most of the time alone, and many of Leonardo’s other paintings of women hold a similiar appearance to Lisa.
I have a theory: that Leonardo Da Vinci and Lisa Giocondo were lovers, and Andrea Del Giocondo and Giocondo Del Giocondo are the love children of Lisa and Leonardo. Leonardo might have added the sad smile when he continued working on her portrait, which he did until the end of his life, keeping it never too far from him, in a life without lisa. Leonardo either loved that painting and thought of it as his finest work, or he was in love with the person in the painting.