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Friday, Mar. 27, 2015

Men Have Named Her

Posted Tuesday, January 15, 2008, at 8:36 AM

What's so funny, lady?
You can check another great mystery off your Great Mysteries List. (No, unfortunately it isn't "Why is that "Smarter Than a 5th Grader" show on television?" That one continues to baffle scientists.) The mystery that has now been pretty conclusively solved is that of the name and identity of the lady in the most famous portrait ever painted. That is, the lady commonly known as Mona Lisa. Turns out her name was... Lisa.

Kind of a letdown. I know.

Actually, the portrait has long been labeled "La Gioconda," since it was widely believed to be a portrait of Lisa del Gioconda, the wife of a Florentine businessman. Now a researcher in Heidelberg named Veit Probst has turned up pretty conclusive evidence that that is indeed who she was. He found an early print that can be shown to have belonged to a friend of Leonardo da Vinci, and which is labeled with the name of the sitter for the portrait.

(You can read more about it here, if you're interested and can read German.)

That mystery is settled, but it is a safe bet that we will never know what exactly she is smiling at, which is the real question here, after all. It is unlikely at this point that a "making of" drawing will ever turn up showing da Vinci standing by the canvas holding up a stuffed toy and saying, "Guardare l'uccello!"*

So some mysteries are safe.

* That's "Watch the birdie!" If you believe Google Translate.

Showing comments in chronological order
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There is a slight possibility that she has bad teeth.......................

-- Posted by Johnny Yuma on Wed, Jan 16, 2008, at 3:28 PM

Considering that 16th Century Europeans viewed any form of personal hygiene as the work of the Devil, that's probably a safe bet.

Come to think of it... Not too many toothy grins are on view in any painted portraits by the old masters or anyone else. But I figure that's because your face would just get too tired sitting there for the length of time it takes to paint a portrait. It's a wonder more portraits don't feature people slumped over in their chairs with their eyes closed.

-- Posted by kenteutsch on Thu, Jan 17, 2008, at 11:27 AM

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