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By   EMANUELA CLARI                                                           Saturday MAY  26, 2018

The worldwide Enigma.

The Clueless bewitching portrait.

Leonardo da Vinci must have been proud of himself from the very beginning of the work.


Is the “Monna Lisa” a simple portrait that can be called “work”?

A simple “work” doesn't revolutionize entire generations!


Come on it's Monna. The Mother of All.

The divine creation with a thunder in the smile and a fascinating glance no-one can resist. A smashing success that celebrates its 515 years if we accredit her naissance in the distant 1503.

The famous painting named “The Gioconda” or “Monna Lisa” is, for many, one of Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpieces.

And it is for sure one of the most discussed Art-cases for the so abundant options regarding the birth and the existence of the painting.


When exactly he conceived the well known “Enigmatic Lady” or “Mrs Lisa”, nobody knows yet.

Therefore Art critics assure we have to consider the lapse of time from 1503 to 1515.

Her Success and Fame began in December 1913  when robber returned it to Louvre

Since early 1900 Monna Lisa's Smile has captured everybody's attention

XXI cent. and still it is the most photographed and famous painting in the world


Now, straight to the point.


Did anyone (and who exactly, please!!) order Leonardo to portray that figure???


Because there aren't documents of any payment or order from anyone!!


And, very important to highlight, Leonardo was the most scrupulous painter ever seen.

He wrote very excessively detailed notes regarding money to give and money to be received.

He was a real Master in Economy and Finance.


Why, then,  did he omit in his account book the gentle and charming presence of a woman?

What was the reason for not doing what represented always his strict routine:

to write about every single cent given and taken.

Monna Lisa's Portrait is shown at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France

Leonardo probably painted it in 1503, at the age of 51

Mr Vincenzo Peruggia stole the "Gioconda" and gave birth to her Fame

Was it a personal affair

nobody should have stuck

his nose in?

Neither should have we?


Do we have to suppose that that board was, for some secret reasons, for himself?? Maybe Leonardo was simply in love. Why not?

In love of a beautiful young lady, supposed by many, only 25 years old. Was he just eager to have her beauty always with him?


Was it just a personal affair nobody should have stuck his nose in? Neither should have we?


A sort of “photograph” to be put secretly in his “wallet” and be admired anytime he desired?


This opinion could be valid especially if the lady was out of his reach.

Was she a wife not to be disturbed?

Was she richer or poorer than him, and then not socially attainable?

Was she a 25-year-old girl refusing the court of a 51-year-old painter?

Or was she maybe a wife and Leonardo's mistress too?

On a side these are some of the reasons why Mr Da Vinci could have avoided writing any notes about that so important "work".

On the other side, though, the above considerations could be reported as whimsical from the group of Art historians who are convinced that Leonardo da Vinci was not attracted by women but men, and therefore, for the same reason affirm that behind Monna Lisa's portrait is hidden his beloved assistant and artist Salai.

Thesis supported, not only by the overlap of the Gioconda's face and Salai's features, who correspond to have many similarities. But also corroborated by the discovery of two letters "L" and "S" in the eyes of the Louvre portrait. Art critics believe the letter  "L" stands for Leonardo and the "S" for Salai.

In the majority of his works Leonardo always mixed reality, "the seen", with his personal messages, giving birth to a "secret code" , "the concealed"  or "the seen by few".

Did he commit himself to the same plot using the Gioconda harmonious lineaments as a distracting mask??


Moreover Salai's presence knocks once again if we reflect on the anagram of MONA LISA which allows us to formulate in French  M.O.N.  S.A.L.A.I  (My Salai).

Not enough? Well let's not avoid another important element.

On the right side of the portrait, in distance it is visible a bridge.

After many studies that bridge had been identified as a bridge in a city called Bobbio, in Emilia Romagna, Italy. That bridge has always been called "The bridge of the Devil". And Salai means "The Little Devil".

If all these symbols have been decrypted correctly , Leonardo might have had the idea of hiding his homosexuality behind the Gioconda's curtain.


Fact is that Leonardo never got married and spent all his life with two young male artists: Gian Giacomo Caprotti the above mentioned and nicknamed Salai  and Francesco Melzi.

Salai became at a very young age his pupil and had been Leonardo's assistant mostly for all his life. Moreover, from many direct sources and trustworthy documents, appears to have been very spoiled by Leonardo himself.

Francesco Melzi was the other important presence in Leonardo's life. The majority defines Francesco not only as his pupil but a very significant  personal secretary.


In addition, in 1476, Leonardo had also found himself involved in an accuse, clearly stated in a law court report and soon afterwards recanted,  of homosexuality. 

So, if we accredit and believe that Leonardo was not interested in women we have to put aside a love affair with a lady and consider a secret love affair for a young boy not to be revealed, especially because the law forbade homosexuality at that time.

If we acknowledge this latest option reliable, then the Gioconda's portrait must have been only an excuse for hiding  a forbidden relationship.

Was really Salai the person that Leonardo wanted to sublimate?


The theories are so many and none of them have been proved 100% to be conclusive.

Dealing with love, another theory arouse and widespread : the Gioconda represented his mother. Maternal love then? Was the Lady simply Monna Caterina, his mother?

Two important details could validate this option too.

Firstly the Gioconda is without eye-brows. At that time, Renaissance, XVI century, women slaves from Orient, had the common use to shave their eye-brows. Leonardo's mother is supposed, by Italian writer and journalist Mr Angelo Paratico,  to have been a slave and not a peasant as wrongly thought.

Secondly, as affirmed again by Mr Paratico, on the index of her left hand it has been recognized a little trace of a sign that could be the sign usually impressed on all slaves as identification of their status.

A young Lady, Salai or mother Caterina. Who was the chosen?


Here comes again The Enigma. Leonardo had such a grab on Monna that he'd never left her alone. The portrait had always been transported wherever he went.

It is proved that he traveled with that poplar board (with a smiling face already on it) always with him.

From Florence, where the story begins, to Rome and Milan and then in France at the Château du Clos Lucé, in Amboise, France, she had always been his loyal partner. And him for her (or hidden him) had always been a devotee Lancillotto, never giving away to any noble request the beloved image.

The most credible theory about the Gioconda,  close to reality and with more references and details, it is that the starting image was of the Florentine noblewoman Lisa Gherardini and that, then, Leonardo had for some unknown reasons added some extra details during the years.


The Florentine merchant named Francesco Bartolomeo del Giocondo, or better known as Lisa's husband, is considered to (likely)  be the person who ordered Leonardo to immortalize his wife's beauty.

Why did Leonardo forget to write down the request for a "work" from such an influential person as the merchant was? The man had been clearly described, by local witnesses, as a very bossy and irascible person. Was Mr del Giocondo's attitude the reason? And why the "work" had never been delivered to Lisa's husband?


A written proof hasn't been found yet. Maybe it had been lost. Or probably, on purpose or unintentionally,  it had been destroyed.

Let's imagine that Leonardo simply forgot to write few lines about it.

But why did the same happen to Mr del Giocondo and Lisa?

There aren't any lines from them, either!!

In 1537 Mr del Giocondo stipulated a very detailed will, but Lisa's Smile hasn't left any trace on it!


It was about his beloved Lisa!!

It was his wife's portrait, not any portrait. His wife's!! The so beautiful girl, who Mr del Giocondo married when she was only 15 years old!


Wasn't Mr del Giocondo satisfied with the work and never wanted it in his house?  Or was Lisa herself, not completely satisfied with the painting?

Or maybe, was Mr Da Vinci postponing the delivery due to his meticulous touch?  Why not leave the grab?? And why not set forth the facts in any written documentation?


The question comes easy: why neither Leonardo nor Francesco del Giocondo and nor Lisa herself, mentioned the portrait in any form. Of course, it is valid to suppose that that documentation hasn't been found yet, but it is hard to believe the existence of any proof since there are, at the moment, three out of three people involved in the omission.


We could also imagine he has never encountered that lady and that he has created, by using only his fervid imagination, the ideal portrait of the perfect woman look!!


So instead of considering a “photograph” of his lover to be put in his “wallet” always with him, “The Gioconda” portrait could be considered a sort of “business card” to confirm his best credentials and skills as an Artist in front of any royal protector. The perfect sample to be shown everywhere to achieve success and more orders.


Nevertheless the Gioconda had been recognized at his time as a Revolutionary Portrait for the new adopted three quarter turn body position and the more lively mood, versus the previous rigid posture always researched by many painters and established in the Renaissance rules devoted to the Art of Portraying.


All that could valid the “business card” option.


Thousands of hours spent on drawing sketches of the human body in all its parts, muscles and expressions could have given him the ability and will to do so.


Not so different from the Ancient Greeks' study of “perfection” applied on marble. In fact, it is well known and documented that Leonardo was such a perfectionist.


This could be also the reason why he (maybe) didn't care to deliver the “work” to anyone.

It could have been just the perfect-look-rehearsal on a poplar panel. One of his normal studies to show.


Here we go back again to the lack of data. If I am doing some private rehearsals and I am just studying why should anyone pay me? There's no reason for it. And of course why should I write anything about it?? No need for recording.


There it comes another piece to be put on our puzzle: Mr Giorgio Vasari's statements on the topic.


One of the most  well known biographer of the XVI century, named Giorgio Vasari, reports, in his “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects”, that Francesco del Giocondo, the Florentine merchant already mention above, asked Leonardo in the year 1503, to realize a portrait of his very young wife called Lisa, to celebrate the move to their new house and the birth of a second child, who the couple named Andrea.

Vasari adds also more details about the exact moment while Da Vinci was intent on painting a “lady”. But it has been  questioned if Vasari's description of that lady was connected to the portrait ordered by Francesco del Giocondo. Was Vasari referring to the same lady? Was that lady really Mrs Lisa Gherardini?


Some historians have reported Giorgio Vasari not to be a 100% reliable biographer. And moreover, to validate a not so reliable source there's another important detail: Vasari wrote Leonardo's biography 30 years later!!! Shall we suppose that Mr Vasari has not remembered very well and clearly  all the details about that moment. Who could after 30 years!?


So we do rely on something that could have been that way but we cannot be absolutely confident of.


In 2007, French Pascal Cotte, one of the best expert in Art and great Engineer  and Inventor, unveiled the well known "Monna Lisa" shown at Louvre, using a particular multi-spectrum camera and surprised many revealing a beautiful younger lady portrait (see photo here below) that Monsieur Cotte interpreted as the real portrait of Lisa Gherardini.

It is interesting to point out that well known painter and architect Raffaello probably would have agreed with him.

Art experts believe that Raphael was present while Leonardo was executing our "under investigation Lady" as proved by a magnificent drawing (see drawing here below).


It is said that Raphael obtained that drawing studying at the presence of Maestro Da Vinci while Leonardo was actually working on the painting.


Raphael's drawing shows practically the same figure as the one discovered by Pascal.


Therefore, Raphael could have probably acknowledged either the client's name who commissioned the portrait or the exact name and surname of the model.

Only afterwards and for purposes not clarified yet, the portrayal had been changed by Leonardo into the actual result admired at the Louvre Museum.

Two Women in One. Why did Leonardo cover the so charming and delicate first version? Which of the two women was Vasari's referring to? Unfortunately there's no other image of Lisa Gherardini to understand her real look. So we do have to conclude and think that the "First Lady",  found by Pascal Cotte, it could really be Mrs Lisa Gherardini.

There comes the question: who is the "Second Lady", which we could friendly nickname the "Louvre Lady" ? Who is she then? The Enigma still persists.

Giorgio Vasari

French engineer and inventor, Pascal Cotte. Amazing discoveries!

"The First Lady ,

found by Pascal Cotte,

it could really be

Mrs Lisa Gherardini"

The portrait of Lisa Gherardini discovered by Pascal Cotte underneath the painting at Louvre.

Monna Lisa drawn by Raffaello while Leonardo was producing it.


I would adore to have the power to go back to the past, talk to Leonardo looking straight into his eyes, or even hide myself in his studio and give an end to this intricate brain-teaser. And, of course, I would love to talk to Lisa or with Raphael, or even  Vasari and have some questions answered.


The enigmatic smile of the "First Lady", discovered by Monsieur Cotte set the track that gave birth to the "Louvre Lady".

The First Lady 's fragility floats through many layers of paint sapiently "sfumata"  and magically melts into the Louvre Lady's pores.

The First Lady 's melancholic beautiful big eyes become into the Louvre Lady's mocking eyes the sublimation of the melancholy itself. Where always sadness embraces hope and good mementos of past better days.

The actual result had been wisely sublimated by Leonardo's  genial approach to feelings and reality.

Lisa Gherardini (98% our First Lady), really existed:

born in 1479, in Florence, Italy, married Mr Francesco Bartolomeo del Giocondo 14 years older than her, lived with him just opposite Leonardo's father's notary studio in Via Ghibellina in Florence, (and it is absolutely certain that Lisa) , said her  "Yes I do" to Francesco, when she was only 15 years old! 15 years old !!!  So young, too young to get married, died at the age of 63, on the 15th of  July 1542. And as proved by records from the convent of Saint Orsola, in her hometown, where her funeral took place, she had a sumptuous celebration where many people, even from the neighborhoods, gathered!


Arouses that, also alive the "First Lady" had something magnetic, something special.


Maybe Leonardo knew more about that 15 year-old-spouse and couldn't avoid hiding Lisa's real  "sufferance" while painting her portrait 10 years later. It could be that her "wistfulness", even if not visible, it had been  so well soaked in the oil paint by Mr Da Vinci's magic touch,  that became tangible to viewers.


That "melancholy" could be the ingredient number one of a magnetic recipe which is stealing hearts, souls and nights to many.

Is the enigma deeper and more profound? Or we really are exaggerating (my self included of course)!!


If there were only two or ten people attracted by that painting it would have been not a case to write or discuss about it, but Monna Lisa has demonstrated to have something special since 1913. There must be something.


The point is that beyond all the conjectures still everything does not fully clear, after 500 years,  the choice of millions of people to stand with interest, amazement and curiosity in front of Monna Lisa.

People from different generations, of different age and sex are still aiming to meet her, to see her, to stare at her, to question her and to immortalize her.


The enigma is still unsolved.


Let's imagine a restaurant full of people and with the queue outside its doors every night.

Let's imagine people passing by and saying:  “wow if so many people go there and queue to go there it must be such a great restaurant.”

The restaurant is neither a great restaurant but sufficiently acceptable nor a terrible place to avoid on a second date.

Many people like it and then subconsciously (maybe) many others can't escape the "constructed" feeling that the food they are eating is very good, adorable, tasty, unique, superb.

Would I ever enter an empty restaurant?

What would happen if the Queen Elisabeth passed all well trimmed and royally dressed ready to say hello with her expensive gloves and... well... what if nobody were there.

Not a single human being at sight. No-one to fight in the street to see a bit of her, to photograph her or to glance at her.


What would happen if turning Her Majesty found out... the desert?

The Queen would be no Queen.

The Monna would be no Monna.

And again what about the Pope?

What would happen if the multitude instead of gathering below Saint Peter's Dome, in Rome, would go to the beach, or to work or to spend some time relaxing on a bench in the beautiful Vatican Gardens?

The Pope would be no Pope.

The multitude-campaign has such an important impact on our society.  To avoid to be influenced by the "multitude-campaign" is one of the most difficult thing even for the more skilled ones.


To be completely free is practically impossible.

Can I sit at the table of a crowded restaurant and taste the food without any influence? Can I look up at the Pope or any other important person, be fighting for my best standing spot to listen to him and still feel that I am participating at the gathering only because I am profoundly and independently touched by his presence, words and halo?

Will I ever ask myself if I would have rather preferred going somewhere else instead?

Finally can I really stand in front of any Art craft and give my own judgement feeling free of any interference?


Am I always able to keep myself away from conscious or subconscious interceptions? Am I able to get rid of the attractive  "there-must-be-something-there if everybody buys it, likes it, attends it and adores it, hates it, talks about it, writes about it" ?


Shall we believe all the writing about “Monna Lisa”? Shall we trust that "there-must-be-something" feeling?


And even if it is all true, or partially true, why should we (myself included) bother so much?

The Enigma fascinated and still does attract, millions of people all around the world. Are the other painters shown at the museum of Louvre feeling upset of being punctually postponed for the “Gioconda”?

Fifteen seconds, statistics say, it is the time spent from the majority in front of the enigmatic smile.

The “Gioconda” is not about fifteen seconds but about the millions of people that in 500 years have still the magnetic attraction to her figure.

Why that portrait and not another?

Some curiosity must have been created like a river flowing fast and collecting proselytes along its running.


But it's not about a glamorous fashion thing that lasts for a year or two. Here we have to face the strength of a seductive glance that still have the magic power of recruiting new followers.

The Enigma is still alive.

Standing in front of her I feel clear her gentle voice saying repeatedly:

“The Enigma: It's me Monna.”


She speaks as if she embodied a much bigger Enigma: the Unknown.


The magic power of the Unknown, of the unsolved, of the unclear.


The mystery of something to be discovered.....

That something that unchain people's will to be the First to unveil the secret.

That something that pushes people to spend their entire Life to find the right pieces to solve the Enigma.

That something that let the One to be fulfilled.

That something that let the One be the Winner among the multitude.

"The Enigma : It's Me, Monna."  

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