The gaze

Mona Lisa’s gaze, turned toward us, is a remarkable feature of Leonardo’s painting that instantly captures our attention. Although this was neither new nor unique in portraiture, Leonardo added a particularly lifelike touch with the crinkling of the eyes as the figure gently smiles.

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The smile

Mona Lisa’s famous smile gives the painting a fascinating ambiguity. Leonardo managed to capture a fleeting expression. To do so, he began by sketching the shadows, then proceeded to model the forms with imperceptible transitions from shadow to light. Observe the resulting effect (sfumato): the paint appears to vibrate, the smile becomes real, the Mona Lisa comes to life.

This smile, that seems to capture the essence of Lisa Gherardini’s personality, also represents the culmination of Leonardo da Vinci’s technical mastery.

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The hands

The position of the hands corresponds to the dignified pose of a bourgeois woman─but in this particular mise-en-scène, it seems to be the result of the sitter’s movement. Mona Lisa must have been sitting perpendicular to the viewer, but in turning toward us has laid her right hand over her left.

An interesting detail: if you look closely at the outline of the index finger on her right hand, you will see a “pentimento”─a change made to the composition of the painting by the artist himself.

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The “pozzetto” chair

Mona Lisa is sitting on a semicircular wooden chair with an armrest supported by balusters; this is clearly recognizable as a pozzetto chair, typical of the Italian Renaissance.

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The small columns and parapet

Mona Lisa is sitting in a loggia, a space defined by a parapet with small columns whose bases are clearly visible, though the shafts are difficult to distinguish. These columns frame the distant landscape to the left and right, while also framing the seated figure.

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