What does it mean to be a genius? History tells us that Albert Einstein was a scientific genius, Michelangelo was considered an artistic genius for his paintings and sculptures and Thomas Edison was the genius inventor who brought us the light bulb. Imagine being a genius who is world famous in all of these areas of human knowledge? Such a person did exist way back in the 15th century, his name is Leonardo da Vinci. Not only did he make a robot that worked, invent a very complex type of math called calculus, he also painted the world’s most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa. For all of the things he accomplished in life, why is it that this painting is what he is known for the most? What made this painting so famous, who was Mona Lisa, and why did Leonardo da Vinci paint her?
As an artist, Leonardo da Vinci was paid by rich merchants, Dukes and even Princes to sculpt, paint or build instruments. One day, a rich silk merchant named Giocondo hired da Vinci to paint a picture of his wife, Lisa. Though Leonardo was getting bored with painting, he took the job anyway, maybe it was for the money or maybe the woman’s face appealed to him, nobody knows for sure why he took the job but he did
Although da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between 1503-1507, it wasn’t quite finished so he worked on it off and on until finishing it just before his death in 1519. He used wooden handled paint brushes made with animal hair to apply many different oil painting styles with names like Verdaccio, Sfumato, and Glazing. What is amazing is that he didn’t paint the Mona Lisa on canvas, not even paper, instead he painted her on a piece of wood that came from a Poplar tree!
In the painting, Mona Lisa has a gentle smile and the expression on her face is what makes the painting so famous. She looks as if she is keeping a secret, and her eyes are full of mystery, too. A very fine veil covers her brown curly hair down to her very simple black dress. She doesn’t wear any fancy jewelry and she sits peacefully with her hands gracefully rested crossed, one on top of the other, on her lap. Behind her, a winding road with a bridge leads up to craggy mountains that slowly disappear into the mist.
It’s well known that Leonardo da Vinci is a genius, a scientist and an inventor but what I like the best about him is his art, especially his painting of the Mona Lisa. Even though Leonardo didn’t like painting anymore, he still painted the portrait for the rich silk merchant, but it took him 16 years to do it. Maybe it took him that long to create such a mysterious look in her eyes, and that look on her face, just like she is keeping a secret. The Mona Lisa is a great example of the Leonardo da Vinci’s genius. Or maybe it’s just like a lot of things he started, history also tells us that he finished very few works of art that he started, so it’s no surprise that it took him so long to paint her.