Artwork is a manifestation of an artist’s journey. A story is told to the viewer, leading them to interpret what the painting means to them. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous works of art in the world, intrigued me. Da Vinci created this piece of artwork during the Italian Renaissance around 1503-1504 in Florence, Italy, and France. Da Vinci used oil on poplar paper to paint the portrait of Mona Lisa. The painting, with the dimensions of 30 in. x 21 in., is at the Louvre, in Paris, France. During spring break, in 2017, I was able to see the portrait in person. There are many formal elements and principles of design that Da Vinci utilizes to create his piece of work.
The meaning or theme of the artwork has been widely discussed over the years. Art, Gender and Identity is a theme portrayed in this piece. There have been speculation that the woman in the artwork strikes a resemblance to Virgin Mary, a symbol of womanhood, which was common in Renaissance art. The purpose of the portrait is to depict a representational image of the woman during the era. Since it is a representational piece, it is safe to assume that the role is to record the world in a way that evokes a sense of mystery towards those who view it.
There are many formal elements that Da Vinci incorporated into his artwork. A technique that he created was sfumato, which overlays translucent layers of colors. This is used to create a blending of colors so the transitions are unclear. The painting appears to have no lines due to sfumato, yet there are many. Expressive lines are used in the clothing, face and hair. The mouth, which has attracted the most attention, has a subtle curve. The zig-zag lines in her sleeves indicate that the fabric is soft or smooth, like velvet. These lines add texture to the work. Up close you can notice the cracked, uneven surface of the painting, but from afar, the painting gives the impression of being smooth. Leonardo da Vinci does not use any outlines in this work, but he uses contour lines in the face. Geometric shapes, such as her oval face, are used as well. Form is defined as the thing itself. It is applied to give the woman a realistic appearance as she is regarded as being three dimensional. The woman represents positive space while negative space is represented by the background. Atmospheric perspective is used as the background appears bluish gray. Value or key is seen throughout the work. Shadows are shown in the background, clothing and hair, highlighting the face and hands. Lastly, color is viewed through the portrait. The woman is made up of neutral colors, such as tan and brown, while the colors blue and green, which are analogous colors, make up the background. The colors used in the Mona Lisa are earthy tones to convey a neutral feeling, which emits neither a feeling of happiness nor sadness. Da Vinci eloquently integrates the formal elements to create a renowned piece of artwork.
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In the Mona Lisa, multiple principles of design are used. Balance is noticeably present in this artwork. By having the woman sitting at an angle, the painting has asymmetrical balance. Proportion is another principle of design that is used in the picture. Lisa is much bigger than the objects in the background of the picture. This principle is used to place an emphasis on her body, notably her face. The woman’s face is the focal point in the Mona Lisa. The landscape in the background leads to her face. The river stream empties towards her, and the horizon line separates her face from her body to highlight her face. By repeating colors, a sense of unity is created in the portrait. The rhythm and harmony captures a simple yet timeless frame of a woman idolized during the Renaissance period. Overall, the combination of the different principles of design helped bring the artwork together as a whole.
Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork, the Mona Lisa, is composed of formal elements and principles of designs that when used together, depict a representational image of a woman. Over the years, not only has the woman’s identity has been discussed, but the message that is being conveyed as well. Due to the subtle curve of her mouth, it is difficult to decipher the expression of her face. Many have portrayed the artwork to be mysterious, engrossing, gloomy, content, etc. The controversy that this artwork has gathered it what makes it important. It is one of the most talked about works of art ever to be created in the whole world. The portrait can convey a variety of messages depending on person who views it. This piece of art creates conversation and provokes thought, which is incredible. Many paintings will catch a viewer’s eye for a second or two before they walk away, but when they look at the Mona Lisa, they will have felt or gained something. That is art.
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