Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has fascinated the world ever since it was put on display to the public. What is it about this painting that is so enigmatic and beguiling; and that touches people in such a profound and sometimes unsettling way? Leonardo, like other artists of the Renaissance period, often used symbolism in their paintings to illustrate radical new ideas of the meaning of life that conflicted with the religious beliefs of the times.
The image of Mona Lisa is androgynous and is a symbol of an idealised form of mankind embodied in the physical realm. The background depicts the chaos of the psychic realm and the collision of the elemental forces on the edge of existence before they take shape. The spiritual realm is symbolised by the ethereal quality of space that permeates the image.
Leonardo perceived space as an inner and outer reality through which light created the shape, structure and appearance of the visible world. As a pioneer of Chiaroscuro, the technique that produced an extraordinary interplay of light and shade, he was able to externalise his inner vision with an authenticity and precision that has never been equalled.
The Mona Lisa is a portrayal of the three phases of life; from infancy, to maturity, and then death. Her eyes look out towards the world with an absence of self-consciousness like that of an infant at rest. The position of the lips is the natural resting point when the mind is calm and an individual is in a state of poise. And finally, the enigmatic smile is often seen in the dead as an indication of the release from existence and the beginning of an altogether more wondrous and extraordinary phase of life. All who gaze upon her are reminded, perhaps subliminally, of our fleeting time in existence and of the inevitable demise of the physical body.
Nice one Leo.