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10 riddles of the “Mona Lisa” by the great Leonardo, which scientists are still struggling with today

There is an opinion that “a picture is better than a thousand words.” But Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has forced historians, art historians, and ordinary people to talk about themselves for hundreds of years. This small portrait, which is exhibited in the Louvre, is called “the most famous, most discussed and most parodied in the world.” And in-depth studies of this canvas, which were carried out at different times, revealed many interesting secrets.

1. Who is she?
The true identity of the woman depicted in the portrait remains a mystery. Most scholars believe this woman is 24-year-old Lisa Maria de Gerardini (aka Lisa del Giocondo), an Italian noblewoman who was born in Florence in 1479. The portrait was commissioned by Lisa’s husband, Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, a merchant of silk and fabric. She gave birth to five children: Pierrot, Andrea, Camilla, Giocondo and Marietta.

According to other hypotheses, the picture depicts Katerina Sforza, Countess Forlì, who became famous for her military conflict with Cesare Borgia. Another theory suggests that the young lady was the mistress of Giuliano Medici, ruler of Florence, or Isabella d’Este, Marquise of Mantua. There is a version that the woman in the portrait is da Vinci’s mother, or even the great artist himself.

2. The smile of the Mona Lisa
The intriguing and mysterious smile of Mona Lisa is perhaps one of the most mysterious elements of da Vinci’s painting. For five centuries they have been arguing whether the girl in the portrait smiles at all, is she happy or sad. Professor Margaret Livingston of Harvard University suggests that the smile is visible due to the specifics of painting only when the audience looks Monet Lise in the eye.

After developing computer programs for “recognition of emotions” in 2005, Dutch researchers found that the picture expresses happiness at 83 percent, disgust at 9 percent, fear at 6 percent, anger at 2 percent, neutrality at less than 1 percent and surprise at 0 percent . However, many argue that Gioconda’s smile changes depending on where to look at the picture, at what angle and from what distance. When viewed in close-up, small details give the impression that the face has a modest expression. But from afar it seems that the Mona Lisa smiles cheerfully.

3. Secret codes
Da Vinci left secret codes in the picture.
Thanks to the microscopic enlargement of the painting, Italian specialists from the National Committee for Cultural Heritage of Italy found a series of letters and numbers printed on numerous elements of the canvas. Art historian Silvano Vincheti claims that in the right eye of Mona Lisa there are letters “LV”, which theoretically denote the artist’s own name, Leonardo da Vinci. In the left eye you can see the fuzzy outlines of the letters “CE” or, possibly, “B”. On the bridge in the background, it was possible to make out the number “72” or the letter “L”, followed by “2”, drawn on the arch of the bridge. One can only guess what the artist had in mind when he so mysteriously drew these letters and numbers, moreover, invisible to the naked eye.

4. Unknown bridge
For the charm of Mona Lisa’s face, they often do not notice the mysterious look in the background. Today, many are wondering what kind of mysterious three-arch bridge is in the background, and in general – what is the exact location of the foggy, mysterious landscape against which Mona Lisa is painted.

Italian historian Carla Glory suggests that the bridge over the woman’s left shoulder is known as the Ponte Gobbo or Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”). It is located in Bobbio, a small village in a hilly area south of Piacenza in northern Italy. Glory’s theory was based on the discovery of the number 72, secretly hidden in the image of a stone bridge. She suggests that this number dates back to 1472. In 1472, a catastrophic flood occurred. The Trebbia River overflowed and destroyed the Bobbio Bridge. In his book The Leonardo’s Riddle, Glory states that “Leonardo added the number 72 under the bridge to capture the memory of the devastating flood of the Trebbia River.”

5. Anxious look
Surely, some wondered how it is possible that Gioconda’s gaze seems to extend somewhere outside the picture, but at the same time it is aimed directly at the viewer. No matter which side you look at the picture, the Mona Lisa continues to “look directly at the viewer.” It would seem that in our three-dimensional world, shadows and light on surfaces should “shift” depending on the angle of view, but this does not apply to two-dimensional surfaces. Such an optical phenomenon can be explained by the scientific theory described by specialists from Ohio University, which proved that the image can look the same, regardless of the angle at which it is viewed.


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