The Hidden History of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Painting
Anthony Ambrosius Aurelius
“Giorgio Vasari, the inventor of the idea of the Renaissance and the author of the very first book about the Renaissance provides clues into who the identity of the woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting is. Vasari stated within his writing that the Mona Lisa was Lisa del Giocondo, (pronounced “gee-oh-con-doh”) the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, (pronounced “fran-ches-ko del gee-oh-con-doh”) a wealthy merchant. Through correspondence, Vasari stated to da Vinci that the painting is “so miraculously lifelike that it seems to be made of flesh, not paint”. Vasari also stated that da Vinci wanted to avoid the melancholy which dominated other portraits, and so he employed musicians, entertainers, and buffoons to keep the model for the painting happy and able to be painted.
Vasari is confirmed in his writing because of a small piece of text which was discovered at the University of Heidelberg. The text is a page which is a copy from the ancient Roman author Cicero, (pronounced “sis-eh-row”) a book which was once owned by Agostino Vespucci (pronounced “ah-gos-tee-noh ves-poo-chi”) in Florence, Italy. In the passage found upon this page, Cicero discusses Apelles, (pronounced “ah-pel-ees”) an Ancient Greek artist, and because of this, Vespucci made a small marginal commentary notation on this page which states “Apelles, aha, he did just the same thing as Leonardo in his portrait of Lisa del Giocondo”. Perhaps most importantly, the notation is dated as October 1503, which means that Vespucci made the comment shortly after seeing the Mona Lisa painting in da Vinci’s workshop.
del Giacondo’s family background was of humble origins, with most people in her region being small scale craftspeople. del Giacondo herself was born into the Gheradini (pronounced “ger-ah- dee-nee”) family in an old wool workshop which was converted into a residential dwelling. del Giacondo met and married her husband in the same building, a building which is significant because da Vinci’s father resided in that same neighbourhood and da Vinci would often come to visit him, which is why the paths of da Vinci and del Giacondo had crossed in the first place. The reason as to why da Vinci decided to paint del Giacondo and not a wealthier person upon commission from a wealthy patron is both because of this, but also because Francesco del Giacondo was a client of da Vinci’s father, Ser Piero da Vinci, (pronounced “ser pee-eh-roh da”