It was French dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp who first parodied Mona Lisa, one of the most renowned portraits in the history of art. He added a mustache, a goatee beard, and the title L.H.O.O.Q. In French, the letters' pronunciation reveal a pun sentence: "Elle a chaud au cul," which literally means "She is hot in the ass." Duchamp not only reinterpreted Mona Lisa and said out loud what many might have thought after seeing her enigmatic smile, but also created one of the most provoking ready-mades that have existed.
Colombian artist Fernando Botero also reproduced this Renaissance painting according to his vision. He named his version Mona Lisa, Aged 12. It is a simple portrait that emphasizes the character's proportions through volume. The painting no longer relies on perspective like da Vinci's work did. Botero changed the portrait's aesthetic values while preserving its tender eyes and motionless lips.
Since its creation, Mona Lisa has been regarded as a beauty prototype. Leonardo da Vinci's 77 x 53 cm painting has been extensively studied. Critics and academics have never been able to agree on whether this work is really da Vinci's or Lisa Gherardini's portrait.
Although many researchers around the world have successfully solved many of these portrait's enigmas, chances are da Vinci took the most of the answers to these burning questions to the grave. These are some of the secrets that specialist have been revealed about Mona Lisa:
10. Although the painting does not contain those secret codes Dan Brown imagined, there are some hidden symbols concealed in it. According to Silvano Vincenti, president of the Italian National Committee for Historical, Cultural, and Environment Heritage, an amplified projection of the painting features the letters "LV" in the right eye, which more than likely stands for the artist's signature. It also features the letters "CE" or "CB". Moreover, the bridge in the background features what could be number "72" or "L2". However, there is not enough evidence to decipher this clue.
9. Dr. Lilian Schwartz carried out a digital analysis and comparison of the Mona Lisa and da Vinci's self portrait. At first, she concluded that Mona Lisa was based on da Vinci's own self-portrait due to the resemblances in their facial features. Later on, her hypothesis was called into question, as there is no certain way to know whether the self-portrait really belong to da Vinci or not.
8. French engineer Pascal Cotte took some X-rays of the canvas. After looking underneath the layers of paint and polish, he discovered that the right hand's finger position was originally different, and as da Vinci progressed with his painting he decided to change it. It was natural for him to have doubts about his work, and perhaps it is his humanity that makes him a well loved and iconic Renaissance maestro.
7. The elbow was restored after the painted was hit with a rock in 1956.
6. One of the left fingers was not completely finished.
5. Some people state that a whitish blot in one of her eyes and chin could indicate she was either sick or had syphilis. The actual truth is that the blots were created by a mere polishing accident.
4. The most accepted theory about the identity of Mona Lisa is that she is Lisa Gherardini, Francesco del Giocondo's wife. Coupled with this, some historians suggest she was pregnant at the time the portrait was being painted. Her arms resting on her belly and her slight tummy could suggest the theory's accuracy.
In 2005, a group of Canadian scientists used laser and infrared scans to produce a 3D image of the canvas. These scans showed evidence of a fine veil covering the woman's shoulders, an item that was often worn by women who were expecting a child or had just given birth.
3. Mona Lisa seems to have no eyebrows, which was a significant detail, as prostitutes in the Renaissance were the only women who would remove their facial hair in order to make their glances more intense, enticing, and arousing.
2. As a matter of fact, Pascal Cotte's infrared analysis of the canvas revealed that Mona Lisa did have brows and lashes. After the woman's face was magnified 24 times, a single brushstroke of hair above the left eye was found. According to Cotte, it is highly probable that eyebrows and lashes were erased in an attempt to clean the painting. Renaissance historian Giorgio Vasari described Mona Lisa as a woman with thick eyebrows in his book Lives of Artists (1550), so this confirms Cotte's hypothesis.
1. As for her enigmatic smile, Harvard University professor, Margaret Livingstone, stated that the smile is more striking when you look at her eyes instead of the mouth. Other researchers even suggest that her smile is affected by random noises around the spectator or by their position when looking at the portrait. In 2005, Dutch researchers developed an emotion recognition software and tested the Mona Lisa: her smile turned out to be 83% happy.
Now it seems Dan Brown's claims about the painting's hidden codes weren't so far-fetched after all.
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Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia