Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Mystery No Longer

Yesterday I saw a report out of Discovery News that the identity of the woman behind the Mona Lisa has been confirmed. Her name is Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant and mother to five children: Piero, Andrea, Giocondo, Camilla, and Marietta.

I have to be honest, a part of my heart sank. Although I've not yet had the chance to view her portrait in person, I like to think that many over the centuries have been drawn to gaze up her face in part because of the mystery. Who is that woman behind those eyes who seems to watch you wherever you stand? Who is that mysterious woman with such a mysterious smile? But then another part of me was happy to discover that a wife and mother who lived a very ordinary life has captured the attention of so many, despite sensational conjecture over the years that she was perhaps a noblewoman, courtesan, or prostitute.

The other person who got a "bump" out of this discovery? Giorgio Vasari, the 16th century painter and art historian who identified Lisa Gherardini as Da Vinci's subject in his "Lives of the Artists," but was previously thought to be unreliable.

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