Critical Essay Sample on Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

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Mona Lisa artwork by Leonardo da Vinci still remains to be a fascinating artwork of the Italian Renaissance period. Mona Lisa oil painting on poplar wood by da Vinci caught the eyes of many drawing investigations on the hidden understanding of the pilgrimage. The original artwork was painted between 1503 and 1519 when the popular Italian painter was living in Florence (Kemp and Pallanti 101). The painting caught the eyes of many since its initial painting leading to a number of improvements in the painting such as 1951 stabilization as well as 1970 oak frame addition putting four vertical braces around it. The ongoing debate and speculating of the sitter in the portrait has earned it much respect and research and its inclusion in the pilgrim academic research sources.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork is one of its kind due to its ability to create an ongoing world of pilgrim fascination as well as investigation. The unproven identity of the portrait sitter and her enigmatic smile draws more attention to the investigation. The portrait’s ability to synthesize the sitter and earth landscape shows much involvement of the artist as well as its influence in portraits after its painting. This shows a great achievement to Leonardo in the world of art.

The Mona Lisa portrait presents a female half-body description and a well-defined backdrop landscape which seems to give much achievement to the portrait. The representation of the portrait sitter curved hair and clothing represents a creation using fine shading. This representation seemed to echo the valley and river shapes depicted behind the sitter. The entire portrait has a sense of harmony shown in the sitter’s enigmatic smile and this is a reflection of Leonardo’s ideology of linking humans to nature. This interconnection, therefore, makes a record of Leonardo’s harmonious vision.

The portrait, having drawn much debate and speculation on the identity of the sitter, led to historians, scholars, as well as religious experts’ interpretations. Many identities have resulted due to these interpretations such as Lisa del Giocondo while others say it’s a portrait of Caterina, Leonardo’s mother (Kemp and Pallanti 85 and 87). The extent to which portraits sitters’ identities have gone is far beyond individuals’ thoughts. In one of the most astonishing attempts to identify the sitter, it forced forensic expertise to collect the remains of Lisa del Giocondo and test her DNA so that they can recreate her face image to compare with the portrait sitter and identify the sitter (Kemp).

The portrait holds an improvement in the earlier renaissance as well as provides a platform for a future renaissance. Earlier painters had a limited representation of the harmony between humanity and nature (Kemp). Leonardo, therefore, shed light on this and depicted the harmony through his ideological representation of a smiling woman and river and valleys representation in the background. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait depicts what many would refer to as a woman although the earlier Italian painters didn’t paint women like that. The sitter (woman) is veiled, with her hands crossed with an enigmatic smile. These features caught many viewers with a gaze. This painting was in contrast to the traditional Italian women portraits.

Leonardo's portrait had a sitter directly looking at the viewer which was not common in most women’s portraits at the time. The kind of assurance and content the woman seem to depict in the portrait was contradicting to the historical expectations of aristocracy among the genders it was more in men than women. Mona Lisa creates social serenity filled with an array of mastery at the time of its painting. The social understanding of Italy during the High Renaissance period is depicted through soothing sfumato. The social representation of the color scheme as well as description earns the portrait an academic understanding of the social consent of the society at the time. Women seemed to be of less importance considering the early Renaissance painter’s representation of them. For example, they were not to look directly into the viewer’s eyes as well as have much assurance and content.

Leonardo da Vinci’s approach to portrait representation was much more innovative as it was not depicted in prior works of art (Kemp). Leonardo majored on entire body representation on a well-defined portrait. From the portrait one can see almost the entire body of the sitter as opposed to just seeing a sliver of the sitter. This was like an open gate to painting and would therefore have a major influence on the 1800s European painting. Additionally, Leonardo’s extraordinary representation of the portrait creates a historical naturalism level made by Italian painters between 1400 and 1500. The level of naturalism also rests on the background representation providing a contrast between the sitter and landscape. The road in the background shows directions heading toward the mountain and this represents humans' visit to the mountain (nature). The remarkability of the contrast between the sitter and landscape gives Leonardo's painting power in the art world.

The Mona Lisa portrait holds a historical turnover to the events and artistry representation during the high renaissance period as well as the period after more so to date (Sassoon 133). As described by Louver Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzan, all portraiture history depended on Mona Lisa (Italian Renaissance) (Italian Renaissance). A number of portraits depended on Mona Lisa all the way from Italian Renaissance to 17th and 19th century portraits. To represent such a fascinating portrait Leonardo seemed to have had a mastery of the earth including its features such as sky, light, atmosphere, as well as natural features like rivers, valleys, and mountains. The representation of the universe with its counterpart such as mountains, rivers, and valleys brought the possibility of dream and reality to limelight. This led to a combination of both scientific and painting approaches to the portrait thereby bringing a sense of finesse and delicacy. The Mona Lisa painting seemed so natural and familiar that many scholars and historians forget to consider the innovative idea Leonardo da Vinci had during the high renaissance.


Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's artwork has stood as a distinct masterpiece among the rest due to its fascinating qualities and investigations revolving around the sitter's identity. It has inspired and amazed viewers since its painting to date with visitors around the world visiting the Louver to have a look at it. The portrait changed the high renaissance period pieces of arts as well as influenced the European art world. The work depicts Leonardo's innovative idea of harmony between humanity and nature which was not a consideration in earlier renaissance painters.

Works Cited

Italian Renaissance. "Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa." Italian Renaissance org, 12 June 2002,

Kemp, Martin. The Mona Lisa of modern science. Nature Publishing Group, 2003.

Kemp, Martin, and Giuseppe Pallanti. "Old Gentry and New Money and Renaissance records." Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, 2017, pp. 85-110.

Sassoon, Donald. "Mona Lisa as a Visual Zeitgeist." Becoming Mona Lisa: The Making of a Global Icon, Harcourt, 2002, pp. 133-142.

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