Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
The iconic painting, Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the globally recognized paintings in the world. It is revered as a true symbol of a gone art era and a proof of the ingeniousness with which da Vinci fascinated his audiences with masterful strokes of his painting brush. However, its unmatched elegance is not confined to an era hundreds of years before our time (Vinci 1). Like many pieces of art before and after its time, the elegance and splendor of Mona Lisa have stood the test of time and technological advancements to become one of the most desired paintings in the world. The thousands of copies and remakes of the painting hanging of walls in thousands of homes globally, including ours, is a testament to its beauty. The meaning and symbolism attached to any art work is rarely objective. In most cases, people tend to find meaning and symbolism in art from a subjective point of view. Such interpretations are influenced by various factors and in my case as a kid; age was an important in how I viewed the Leonardo da Vinci’s painting; a masterpiece of the Renaissance Era.
Paintings and pieces of art have innate symbols to various people and different situations. As a kid, we had a copy of Mona Lisa painting hanging on our wall. At the time, I found it rather scary especially with eyes of the lady seemingly following me ominously. The lady seemed to following every move and step I made in the room. It symbolized a watchful eye and lurking danger. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to me, became the lady of our house; an eye brought in by my parents to keep watch on me in case I was up to any mischief. To me, the lady in the painting was like a know-it-all, fierce super nanny who watched every move I made. Her look, like her position on the wall, was unchanged. Her posture on the chair was gentle and calming yet she seemed to be seated on the edge and upright. As a kid, this betrayed her calm posture. This transformed her into an eagle-eye lady whose primary focus was my movements and behavior. The intense gaze and deep concentration breathed life into her and transformed her into an eagle-eyed supper nanny purposefully brought and hanged strategically in the room to watch me.
The wry smile on the lady’s face was discomforting. She always seemed to gaze either deep into my soul and just past me; peering into some ghostly figure only she could see. I could not fathom what the lady was peering at. However, I always believed she was staring at me with an intensity of an authority figure. This is because no corner of the house seemed too far for the reach of her gaze. She always seemed unimpressed by my actions.
As a kid, the lady in the painting seemed to be watching me with a judgmental look; always waiting for me to behave naughtily and reprimand with her emotionless and steely gaze. These images ‘repainted’ a ghostly picture of the lady. Her unconquerable authority fed into a ghostly image I had of the lady. This was further reinforced by the lifeless and ghostly background of the painting and her dark clothes.
However, as I grew older I began to understand the painting better. This ultimately changed how I interpreted not only the Mona Lisa painting but also other that I encountered. I began to appreciate the beauty of her seemingly all-seeing and steady gaze, the elegance of her posture and expensive linen she wore. I also began to appreciate the attention to detail paid by da Vinci in painting an iconic masterpiece that cemented his legacy as a painter. With every stroke of the painting brush, he etched his name into history books by creating a life-like image of a lady that has become a mother lode of information on history and cultural practices of Italian Renaissance Era.
The laser-sharp attention paid to the details is indicative of the close relationship da Vinci had with the lady in the painting. It shows that he was close to the lady while painting her. On the other hand, if he was recollecting his features and hence painting out of memory then he must have been close enough to the lady to observe her features. If it is the latter, then da Vinci was nostalgic about his encounters with the lady. With my interpretation skills developed, today the memory of that painting evokes feelings of nostalgia. The painting reminds me of my childhood. Each detailed stroke of da Vinci’s painting brush carries with a strand of childhood memory. I remember the day I became conscious of Mona Lisa’s presence on our wall. My parents brought and hanged the painting when I was at school. When I came home, her intense gaze and gentle posture were both repulsive and welcoming.
I was attracted to the painting because of its uniqueness. However, my fear of its steely and lifeless gaze repulsed and scared me. But most importantly, Mona Lisa evokes memories of family time in our house. It reminds of the many times I lost a game of hide-and-seek with siblings because I could hide too near the painting as I was scared of its ghostly presence. It represents nostalgic memories of the many times my older siblings, having realized I was scared of it, used it to win fights, games and arguments. My siblings used it as a perfect excuse to blackmail me into giving in to their demands. It also represents memories of the hundreds of times I had to report them to our parents.
Therefore, Mona Lisa not only represents memories of childhood games and sibling rivalry and intimidation but also a platform on which parental love was manifested. My parents not only reprimanded my older siblings whenever they used the painting to scare me; they also taught me my first lesson on art. Their positive critique of the painting allayed my fears over time. They showed me the beauty of the painting and taught me its rich history and that of the artist, da Vinci. The painting represents an ignition of passion from an early to appreciate art and the artist (Bryner 1). The vast knowledge I have on Leonardo da Vinci was ignited by the fear I had for Mona Lisa. With the help of my parents, I overcome my fear and embraced the painting. Essentially, like the era of Renaissance it came from, Mona Lisa represents a renaissance in my life: a rebirth of embracing of the unknown with the objective of unraveling it.
Da Vinci’s painting embodies devotion. Its magnificence is achieved by devotedly adding the small details. Today, the painting reminds me of my first observation of commitment and devotion. My parents devotionally took care of the painting: they had a special cloth and procedure for cleaning it. Their methodical approach was reminiscent of a man paying homage to a work of devotion. The cleaning was routinely planned. The painting was removed, held carefully and placed on safe platform. The brushing of dust was evocative of da Vinci’s image briskly stroking his brush to apply final touches on the would-be iconic painting (Sassoon 12). The procedural approach was artistic, almost da Vinci-like. It was like reliving that moment in time, decades ago when da Vinci captured the imagination of the world with his masterpiece. These nostalgic memories transform Mona Lisa into a symbol of devotion and my first lesson on how to take care of art pieces.
In conclusion, Mona Lisa is a fine masterpiece befitting the many symbols it represents. It epitomizes the ingeniousness of Leonardo da Vinci and the many artists and art works of the Italian Renaissance Era. Personally, it has become a symbol of childhood memories, nostalgia and a renaissance. Hidden within the steely gaze and wry smile of the lady, are memories of childhood games, family times and my first lessons in art critique and care. The painting was my first encounter with any artwork and it left indelible mark in my quest for deeper understanding and appreciating art pieces, their history, stories behind them and the artists. Works Cited
Bryner, Jeanna. “25 Secrets of Mona Lisa Revealed.” Accessed 2007 Oct. 18.
Sassoon, Donald. Why is the Mona Lisa Famous? . La Trobe University Podcast, 2014.
Vinci, Leonardo. “The Mona Lisa.” Retrieved from http://www.leonardodavinci.net/the-mona-lisa.jsp