Lisa del Giocondo (c. 1479-1542)

Lisa del Giocondo was the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, arguably the most famous painting in the world (and considered by some to be the very best). Little is known about Lisa del Giocondo’s life except that she was born into a respectable Florentine family; one with an old aristocratic name of importance but one whose wealth had diminished to middle-class levels by the time Lisa arrived. She married at the tender age of fifteen to a much older man, probably for love because the dowry offered by her family was less than her successful merchant husband may have otherwise gotten. Characteristic of Florentine families during the Italian Renaissance, the del Giocondos were art appreciators and it was Lisa’s husband who commissioned the painting by da Vinci circa 1503. The “Mona Lisa” portrayed Lisa in the typical fashion of the 15th and 16th century female ideal: that is, a model of virtue (poised upright and reserved with her hands crossed). Yet Lisa’s mysterious smile provides some level of intimacy between the woman and her viewer. The techniques used by da Vinci created an iconic enigma where we onlookers are voyeurs attempting to understand the emotion behind this woman named “Mona Lisa” (the term “Mona” is a title of respect, as in “my lady, Madonna”). Ironically the del Giocondos never received the painting; da Vinci kept it and traveled with it until his death. Da Vinci’s heir sold it to King François I of France where it remained with the monarchy possessions until the French Revolution, after which it belonged to the French people at its home at the Louvre (where it remains today under bullet-proof glass).

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