Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci): Painting Parodies
Mona Lisa (La Gioconda / La Joconde / Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)
Leonardo da Vinci’s Early Years
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 to May 2, 1519 was born in Vinci, Italy. He was the illegitimate son of Piero (ser is a title given to upper middle-class landholders)—a man who lived in the town of Vinci—and a woman known only as Caterina. Leonardo’s father was a fifth generation notary public, an impartial and independent legal advisor. His mother was a peasant woman thought to have been a barmaid.
Leonardo’s father acknowledged him and had him baptized. He didn’t allow Leonardo to live in his household, however. Instead, Piero sent Leonardo and Caterina to live in a peasant’s home in a nearby village.
When Leonardo was four years old, his father married a 16-year-old girl. Piero’s wife was unable to bear children, so Piero moved Leonardo into the household, which consisted of Piero, his young wife, Piero’s parents, and his brother.
When Leonardo was 15, his father recognized that he had artistic talent. Piero took Leonardo to Florence, the largest city in the part of Italy in which they lived, and apprenticed him to the studio of Andrea del Verrochio, a painter, sculptor, worker in precious metals and jewels, and pageant and costume designer. At first, Verrochio entrusted Leonardo with small tasks in his studio.
In 1472, Leonardo was permitted to paint the entire figure of an angel in Verrochio's Baptism of Christ. The exquisite portrayal of the angel in blue on the extreme left of the painting caused Verrochio to acknowledge that the apprentice was more talented than his master.
Also in 1472, Leonardo painted the first painting enitrely on his own, Annunciation.
Leonardo da Vinci's Two Most Famous Paintings
Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519 in Amboise, France at the age of 67. During his lifetime, Leonardo produced 13,000 pages of notes and drawings in his journals and a dozen paintings. Leonardo's two most famous works are The Last Supper, the most-reproduced religious painting in the world, and Mona Lisa (La Gioconda / La Joconde / Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo), the most parodied painting in the world.
The Last Supper
181 inches (460 centimeters) x 346 inches (890 centimeters)
30 inches (77 centimeters) x 20-7/8 inches (53 centimeters)
Tempera on a dry wall sealed with pitch, gesso, and mastic
Oil on wood
Commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza and Duchess Beatrice d'Este
Commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo
Current location: Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy
Current location: Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
What is a parody?
A parody is a literary work, artistic work—such as a painting or sculpture, or piece of music that imitates another creation. The work is not intended to be a reproduction or copy. It was created for comic relief, to make fun of the original, to ridicule it.
Who was Lisa Gherardini?
Lisa Gherardini (June 15, 1479 to July 15, 1542 or 1551) was Mona Lisa, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. She was married at the age of 15 to a much older man, a cloth and silk merchant. Very little is known about Mona Lisa other than that she had five children, and her husband Francesco commissioned Leonardo da Vinci, a neighbor of theirs, to paint her portrait, beginning in 1503.
Why copies and parodies of Mona Lisa?
For more than five centuries, artists have been painting and sculpting Mona Lisa.They have used traditional painting methods, and they have used Adobe Photoshop and other graphics software tools. In all of the research I have done, and in all that I have read over the years, no one has explained why.
Was it the aerial perspective background with its many dozens of layers of glaze? Was it Mona Lisa's smile, with the shadows at the corners of her mouth giving her grin an upturned look?
I can't decide what the reasons are for the many copies and parodies of the portrait of Mona Lisa. If you have a theory, please post it in the comments section.
Following are some of the best, worst, and funniest examples.