Mona Lisa – Leonardo Da Vinci


Leonardo’s three great portraits of women all have a strange air of wistfulness. This is at its most engaging in Lady with the Ermine, brooding in the Female Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci and undeniably enigmatic in the Mona Lisa. Unarguably the most famous painting in history, it is also the only portrait by Leonardo whose authorship remains unquestioned. Though neither signed nor dated it is universally accepted to be by Leonardo. But who was the subject, when was it painted and what is the story behind the mystical smile?

Historians agree that Leonardo commenced the painting of Mona Lisa in 1503, working on it for approximately four years and keeping it himself for some years after. Supposedly this was because Mona Lisa was Leonardo’s favourite painting and he was loathe to part with it, however it may also have been because the painting was unfinished. Whatever the reason, much later it was sold to the King of France for four thousand gold crowns. The world has talked about it ever since. After the revolution in France the painting was transferred to the Louvre. Napoleon took possession of it using the panel to decorate his bedroom. Upon his banishment from France Mona Lisa once more returned to the care of the Louvre. What is certain is that the painting was never passed onto the rightful owner, that being the man who originally commissioned and presumably paid for it. .

The first written reference to the painting appears in the diary of Antonio de’ Beatis who visited Leonardo on the 10th October 1517. He was shown three paintings by the master, who was aged sixty-five at the time. These three consisted of one of the Madonna and Child in the lap of St. Anne, one of a young St. John the Baptist and a third of a Florentine lady. 

Who was the lady in question? At this time researchers remain uncertain of the sitter’s identity with some claiming she was Isabella of Aragon — the widowed Duchess of Milan; they point out the ‘widows veil’ on her head as supporting evidence. Others conclude she was the mistress of Giuliano de’ Medici, but the veil on her head may well be a symbol of chastity, commonly shown at the time in portraits of married women. The path shown may also be the ‘path of virtue’, a reference to the story ‘Hercules choice’; this was frequently referred to in Renaissance art and would be unlikely to appear in a painting of a mistress. It is probable that she was Mona Lisa Gherardini, the third wife of wealthy silk merchant Francesco di Bartolommeo di Zanobi del Giocondo. At this stage Lisa would have been over twenty-four years of age, by the standards of the time she was not in any way considered particularly beautiful, though Leonardo saw certain qualities which have now made her the most heavily insured woman in history.

The smile has become a hallmark of Leonardo’s style. It is most obvious in the painting of the Mona Lisa, but also to be seen in most of his other works. There is no mistaking the same smile — and upturn of the left side of the mouth — on the face of St. Anne in the Burlington House Cartoon. That drawing dates from a bit earlier than theMona Lisa, somewhere around 1498. Speculation exists that the smile originated from his mother, Caterina. A less romantic suggestion is that the painter merely  “concerned himself with certain arrangements of lines and volumes, with new and curious schemes of blues and greens.”

Various other suggestions have also been made as to the reason behind the smile including the simple idea that during this period in history women were instructed to smile only with one side of their mouths so as to add an air of mystery and elegance. An Italian doctor’s answer was that the woman suffered from bruxism; this is an unconscious habit of grinding the teeth during sleep or times of great stress. The long months of sitting for the portrait could well have triggered an attack of teeth grinding. Leonardo did attempt to keep his subject relaxed and entertained with the use of music; he had six musicians to play for her plus and installed a musical fountain invented by himself. Different, beautiful works were read out loud and a white Persian cat and a greyhound bitch were there for playing with. 

The most unusual suggestion is that Mona Lisa was really a man in disguise, perhaps being a form of self-portrait and the face of Leonardo himself. Computer tests show some of the facial features match well that of another(?)self-portrait of Leonardo. Some copies of the Mona Lisa also show the sitter as a male. 

The truth is that this style of smile was not invented by Leonardo da Vinci. It can be found in a number of sculptures from the fifteenth century, one of these being Antonio Rossellino’s Virgin; it is somewhat reminiscent of Greek funerary statues and Gothic statues in medieval cathedrals. The mysterious smile can also be found very widely in the works of Leonardo’s master, Verrocchio and Leonardo used the same smile in a number of his paintings.  

Much has also been made about the Mona Lisa’s ‘uncommonly thick’ eyebrows, a belief which came about after Vasari wrote a description of the painting. A close examination of the above detail shows there aren’t any eyebrows; women of the time commonly shaved these off. Vasari had never seen the Mona Lisa and though it is popular to quote his text on the painting it must be realised he wrote his treatise based entirely upon hearsay. Despite this, he was totally accurate in stating that, “On looking at the pit of the throat one could swear that the pulses were beating.”

The most expressive parts of the human face are the outer points of the lips and eyes. Leonardo has deliberately left these areas in shadow which creates the effect of causing different people to read different emotions on the face of the sitter, whomever she may be.

Mona Lisa is distinguished by her complete absence of jewellery whereas the norm for the day was to present subjects with elaborate decoration as can be seen in the painting done by Titan of Caterina Cornaro, Queen Of Cyprus. Mona Lisa’s hair is smooth with only the covering of a black veil, hands are free of rings or bracelets and nothing adorns her neck. There are small intricate loops across the neckline of her dress; such was Leonardo’s interest in codes that many people have searched in vain for a message in these loops. This painting went against all the trends of the time and is a perfect example of how Leonardo never followed traditions. He abandoned the usual poses, which had subjects shown as stiff and upright, replacing this with a relaxed sitter, her beautifully painted hands resting easily on the arm of her chair. 

While most people are aware the Mona Lisa is also called La Gioconda by the Italians (translation: “a light-hearted woman.”), fewer know the French refer to it as La Joconde. Done in oils on poplar wood it was originally much larger than it is today. Two columns on either side of Mona Lisa have been cut off making it difficult to recognise she was seated on a terrace. The bases of these columns can just be seen on the very edges of the painting which now measures only 77 x 53 cms.

At the time Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa he was also doing some of his finest sketches of plant life and nature. This can be clearly seen in the background of the panel and it is very elaborate, perhaps the finest he ever did. The bridge shown has now been identified as being at Buriano (Arezzo).

The painting of Mona Lisa has had an interesting history being stolen on the 21st August 1911 from an Italian thief who had taken the painting to Italy. The loss of the painting was not reported for twenty-four hours as most employees assumed it had been removed by the official museum photographer. It then took a week to search the 49-acre Louvre with the only find being the painting’s frame, which was located in a staircase. It resurfaced some two years later in Florence, when an Italian named Vincenzo Perugia offered to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery for US$100,000. It was exhibited for a time and then returned to Paris.   

To steal the painting Perugia had spent a night hiding in a little-used room at the Louvre. While the museum was closed he simply walked into the room where the Mona Lisa was hung, removed it from the wall then cut it from the frame once he reached the staircase. He then exited the building breaking out through a ‘locked’ door by unscrewing the doorknob. Ten months prior to the theft the Louvre had made the decision to begin having their masterpieces placed under glass. Perugia was one of four men assigned to the job and so in a position to get to know the Louvre well enough to pull off the crime. 

In 1956 acid was thrown on the lower half of the painting with the required restoration taking some years.    

The situation today is that the Mona Lisa has become so well-known that it may only be viewed behind thick protective glass after battling through a large crowd of sightseers. The cover of triplex glass which protects the painting was gifted by the Japanese during the Mona Lisa’s 1974 visit to Japan — that being the last time it left the museum. By international agreement the painting will no longer be displayed in other countries but will stay safely on display at the Louvre in Paris where it may be properly protected against further damage, theft or attack. The bulletproof box is kept at a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 55 percent; a built-in air conditioner and nine pounds of silica gel ensure no change in the air condition. Once a year the box is opened to check the painting and for maintenance on the air conditioning system.

Time may have cracked and crazed the paintwork of the Mona Lisa, but the air of mystery remains. It has been endlessly reproduced, has inspired numerous writers, poets and musicians, yet remains little understood. The same style can be seen used by other masters such as Raphael (Maddalena Doni) and Carot (Dame à la Perle). Many naked women have been painted or drawn in the attitude of the Mona Lisa and these were a favourite on the occasions when artists were called on to portray royals in their baths. The Carrara Academy in Bergamo has just one of many nude versions, this one having been painted in the 17th century. Copying of the Mona Lisa style started even before the painting was finished.

By far the most controversial version of the Mona Lisa is in the Vernon collection in the U.S. This painting clearly shows the columns on either side of the sitter which have been cut off the Louvre example. The owners consider the artwork to be authentic and value it at $2.5 million. 

The last work done on the panel was in the 1950’s when age spots were removed during a cleaning. Suggestions that the painting should experience a thorough facelift involving the removal of layers of resin, lacquer and varnish from the past 500 years have received a firm thumbs down from the Louvre. Computer restoration shows that the colours of the painting may be quite different without the grime that presently covers it. Rosy cheeks instead of sickly yellow, pale blue skies instead of the present green glow. On the downside, any attempt to clean the painting may result in irreparable damage from the various solvents required to remove the varnish and there is no guarantee the suspected bright colours exist below the coatings which have been applied over the years as a protectant.  For those lucky enough to have viewed the work under natural light state there is still a surprising amount of colour evident to the eye, maybe more is below the grime, but no one dares to clean her. X-rays have shown there are three different versions of the Mona Lisa hidden under the present one.


Michael Caine Explains the End of ‘Inception’, but Should He Have?

You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.

One of my most popular articles ever was the one I wrote following the release of Inception titled “Wake Up! Let’s Talk about ‘Inception’ – Here’s My Interpretation. It gave me an opportunity to work out my theories on the film and its ending and allowed readers to discuss their personal interpretations. At this moment it has over 440 comments and serves as the most read article on the site for 2010. Why? Not because my interpretation was some whirlwind interpretation, but because people wanted to read not only my opinion, but share their interpretations and read the opinions of others.

This was the beauty of Inception and Christopher Nolan’s decision not to end the film with a clear cut answer as to whether the top fell or continued to spin. It’s the reason you heard groans in the theater followed by laughter as audience members were waiting to see if it would fall and once they realized Nolan wasn’t going to tell them there was excitement and giddiness at the idea of the unknown.

Nolan was leaving it up to our imagination and our interpretation of what’s real and what isn’t. Who is the true architect and is Dom still dreaming or are those really his kids? Well, they look like the same kids but are they wearing different clothes? IMDb lists two separate sets of child actors for his kids. And so on, and so on. The debate continues and no one knows whether they’re right or wrong and that’s what makes it so great.

But wait. Hold on. Being the society we are, we’re unwilling to accept this idea of the unknown. Hell, we have our freaking iPads and WhatsamaGoogles and we damn well should be able to figure this out. So and so is on Twitter and he’ll probably tell us the answer.

First there were the endless number of charts made to “explain” Inceptionas if the dream levels were what was causing debate. Then there were the clever folks behind “plot hole”images that can’t even spell Michael Caine’s name correctly let alone understand Cobb’s wish wasn’t just to be the guy his kids visit in France on occasion, but to have an ongoing and active role in their lives and be their father again. I’m not positive, but I don’t think the authorities would take too kindly to a grandfather exporting his grandchildren out of the country to live with their fugitive father. The folks hunting Cobb down would certainly use that against him and something tells me this might raise a red flag. Moving on…

Next it was Dileep Rao over at Vulture adding his two cents, but this was merely his interpretation. Considering he was part of the cast his interpretation was interesting, but it was nonetheless an opinion no better than the rest of ours and doesn’t necessarily take things too far. However, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland began pulling the curtain backin early August and now Michael Caine has attempted to reveal the whole shebang as if Nolan handed him his playbook. And yes, if you don’t want your interpretation ofInception spoiled you should probably skip the next paragraph and continue reading below the image.

In an interview with BBC Radio’s The Chris Moyles Show (via Screenrant) Caine is quoted saying, “[The spinning top] drops at the end, that’s when I come back on. If I’m there it’s real, because I’m never in the dream. I’m the guy who invented the dream.”

Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not reallylooking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.
Photo: Warner Bros.

So there you have it. Mystery solved. The key to Borden’s journal has been revealed and the magician’s trick explained.

Ironically, just as I was reading Caine’s quote I was watching Criterion’s upcoming Blu-ray release of Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician and on the disc there is a short interview in which Bergman is asked about the “intention” of his latest film, Persona. You may find Bergman’s answer interesting:

If I’ve really managed to make a film that has sparked a debate it would be very tactless of me to barge in on that debate and talk about what I really meant by the film.

It would be tactless toward the audience, because I’m sure they all have their own interpretations, and tactless towards those commenting on it in the media, who might feel hurt if they found they’d misinterpreted the film.

Therefore I prefer not to say anything at all.

I played my part in this debate when I made the film.

As far as being “hurt”, as Bergman puts it, it isn’t that I feel hurt as much as I feel Caine is cheating people who may now find it useless to explore the film further, as they look for their own explanation and find it impossible to shake Caine’s words from their head. Personally, my interpretation suits me just fine and I will be watching the film again looking for further evidence to either back it up or shoot it down in support of another theory. So while I agree with Bergman’s statement, I think the one thing he’s missing is that no matter what, an artist’s intentions may be when it comes to their art, it doesn’t mean it’s the “only” way to view or interpret said art.

Sure, Caine is just one of the actors and it isn’t as if Nolan started blabbing, but considering Caine’s role in the film many will take his word to be the final word. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll be hearing Chris Nolan explaining the ins and outs ofInception or confirming Caine’s statement any time soon. I would expect to hear him talk about Inception‘s ending just as much I anticipate he’ll offer a final explanation for the existence of a certain tattoo in Memento.

As for Caine’s interpretation, I’ve already swept it under the rug. In my interpretation of the film it doesn’t matter if the top falls or not so I guess his reasoning makes no difference either way to me. In fact my interpretation could actually shoot his down in terms of explaining whether or not the end of the film is a dream or not.

Nevertheless, that’s besides the point, I only hope anyone that reads his opinion does the same as I have and just pass it off as another opinion and leave it at that. When movies leave the door open for the audience to make their own interpretation, and engage us along the way, there are few things better if you ask me.



Can Money BUY , HAPPYNESS !!

I was just pondering over a thought today that .. Well, money surely can buy happiness and its true in many circumstances, but not always, you need money for the basics alright, but its upto your material needs and desires to want more. The needs are always limited, its the wants that surpasses the needs.

One may recieve a certain salary, and he might be satisfied with it, while the other might be over satisfied with it, while one might not be satisfied at all.


Well it truly is!

Money is needed for some of the best things in life, if you have enough and are willing to spend on your desires, you should go ahead and do it!

Some feel the need to buy expensive materialistic items with their money while the other might like to save , while some might like to give it in charity. It’s totally a person’s choice !

It’s all upto an individual, and his willingness to use Money , in his own way.

One thing I have observed that , people who Think they are Poor, are not exactly Poor. Well most of them , not all, have access to food, shelter and a daily income, while for the unfortunate rest, there are a lot of helping hands our there whom we do not know of, doing their little bit , trying to bridge the gap, & it’s a fact !

So it all boils down to one simple logic, that Happiness is just a state of perception, and money is just a flow of Energy (where energy is your labour involved in working at your workplace, to getting that salary, then using it to buy food, and then back to work) ,  to satisfy our materialistic needs.

I have found the image below really interesting, thought of sharing with all of you.

– Mustafa Mun

Are We lab-rats?


Are you a dreamer? Do you frequently find yourself gazing off into the distance getting lost in a world of “What If”?

Back to work. You can’t daydream forever.

But what if you could? What if you had the freedom to daydream when you felt like daydreaming? To work when you felt like working?

Humans aren’t supposed to spend their days in office buildings. We’re not supposed to spend large amounts of time moving ourselves from one place to another in giant hunks of metal while our bodies slowly deteriorate and our relationships slowly fade.

We’re not supposed to spend gargantuan amounts of time plopped down in front of electronic devices moving our fingers and eyelids, absorbing radiation, and spending more waking time in the virtual world than in the real one.

We not supposed to arrive at home and focus our attention on a box that has been pre-programmed to brainwash us while simultaneously allowing our bodies to atrophy.

We’re not supposed to spend most of our life communicating with our loved ones using a digital representation of their voices. “Raam to the Enterprise, I love you mom!”

Damn it Jim, we’re not digital lab rats! We’re humans!

We’re meant to be free!

We’re meant to move. To run. To breathe. We’re meant to interact. To communicate. To laugh. To smile. To learn.

We’re meant to live in the real world.

We’re meant to follow our desires; our passions; our dreams. We’re meant to coexist with nature and to nurture a sustainable, symbiotic relationship with it.

We’re meant to eat when we’re hungry and to sleep when we’re tired. We’re meant to have fun when we’re feeling playful and to daydream when we’re feeling dreamy.

We’re meant to work like humans, not like ants. We’re meant to be more than an address book entry, a Twitter username, or an Avatar on the screen. We’re meant to be creative. To explore. To think. We’re meant to dream. To have ideas. To create. To be unique.

We’re meant to be friendly. To give. To share. We’re meant to be kind. To help. To heal. We’re meant to care and to love.

We’re meant to feel the wind against our skin, smell the earth under our feet, and be inspired by the life and the natural beauty around us.

When was the last time you felt the earth under your bare feet? When did you last have fresh dirt underneath your nails?

Go! Experience the real world. Reconnect with your body. Develop a healthy relationship with Mother Nature. Listen. Breathe. See. Touch. Smell. Taste. Use your senses.

Walk barefoot. Use your legs, if you’re lucky enough to have them. Feel the individual muscles move. Use your voice. Move your eyes.

Embrace who you are. Find the courage to be yourself.

If you’re a talker, connect. If you’re a musician, create. If you’re a writer, share. If you’re an artist, do art. If you’re a builder, build. If you’re a healer, heal. If you’re a teacher, teach. If you’re an explorer, explore. If you’re a dreamer, dream.

You’re not who society tells you to be. You don’t have to be. You shouldn’t be! Break free of any self-imposed limitations and experience life to its fullest. Break new ground. Get out of the rut. Explore. Try something new.

If you find yourself daydreaming, then let yourself dream. If you find yourself in a position you don’t fully enjoy, or one that holds you back from experiencing life to its fullest, then make those tough decisions and change your life.

If you don’t wake up every single day and look forward to what’s ahead, then something isn’t right. You’re not living.

But you can change it!

You already have the freedom inside you. Living free is a conscious decision.

Make it!

But What If really are Lab-rats? What If there is someone controlling our every thought as we speak, as we type , as we move and so on.. What if there exists multiple dynamics of parallel universe? What if there are billions of Earths scattered in different time dimensions? What if in Earth A you are what you are and in Earth B you are someone you want to be , in Earth C you are an old man/woman and so on and so forth.

What if everything we know , is just another STORY! …???  Probably we are just bunch lab-rats of this whole Blunder Experiment called Universe. !!