Monday, June 15, 2009

Nude Mona Lisa on show in Vinci: 5,000 Mona Lisa Works Displayed on Da Vinci muse

Mona Lisa has inspired fine artisits and pop artists to create their own Mona Lisa. Now, along with 5,000 works inspired by the original Mona Lisa, a 16th-century painting of a nude Mona Lisa once attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci went on show for the first time this past Saturday as part of a sweeping new exhibition that opened in Tuscany in Leonardo Da Vinci's home town of Vinci, near Florence in the region of Tuscany. The 5,000 works inspired by the original Mona Lisa including paintings, sculptures, etchings and new media images spanning five centuries, all on display at the Museo Ideale in Leonardo's hometown of Vinci in Tuscany for the show, the largest ever held on the mysterious muse.

Experts have succeeded in establishing that the nude Mona Lisa once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839) - a major collector who also owned Leonardo's painting of St Jerome now in the Vatican Museums. Another nude will also go on show but investigations into its history are continuing.

Curated by Agnese Sabato and Alessandro Vezzosi under the supervision of the world's top Leonardo Da Vinci expert Carlo Pedretti, the exhibition will also reveal the latest spectacular scientific data from experts researching the original Mona Lisa housed in the Louvre in Paris.

The show is divided into two sections.

The first explores the history of the Mona Lisa, including dating problems and the identity of the smiling model, but also displays sculptures and etchings inspired by the painting from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

The second section is dedicated to so-called Leonardismo and highlights how the Mona Lisa became an icon in literature, graphic design and on the internet.


Unlike most Renaissance portraits, Leonardo's original Mona Lisa (mona is the standard Italian contraction for madonna, or ''my lady,'') bears no date or signature, nor is the name of the sitter given. These omissions, coupled with the sitter's mysterious close-lipped smile, have helped spawn endless theories about the woman's identity. Various contemporary court beauties and noblewomen have been put forward, including Isabella d'Este and Isabella Gualanda, while some have concluded that she was Leonardo's mother. Other academics argue that the sitter was one of his favourite young lovers disguised as a woman. Such theorists note that da Vinci never relinquished the painting, keeping it with him up until his death in Amboise, France in 1519.

There is in fact no evidence that da Vinci was paid for the portrait or that it was ever delivered. The Mona Lisa's strange smile has also led to endless speculation and theories, some of the most curious provided by medical experts-cum-art lovers.

One group of medical researchers has maintained that the sitter's mouth is so firmly shut because she was undergoing mercury treatment for syphilis which turned her teeth black. An American dentist has claimed that the tight-lipped expression was typical of people who have lost their front teeth, while a Danish doctor was convinced she suffered from congenital palsy which affected the left side of her face and this is why her hands are overly large. A French surgeon has also put forth his view that she was semi-paralysed, perhaps as the result of a stroke, and that this explained why one hand looks relaxed and the other tense. An Italian doctor has pointed to an alleged puffy cheek and swollen hand to claim she was suffering from a 'fatty blood' disorder.

From "Mona Lisa to the nude Gioconda" runs at the Museo Ideale in Vinci from June 13 to September 30.

For more about the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci and video of the Rome exhibit, The Genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, click Leonardo Da Vinci in Rome.

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