Was she happy or sad? Had she lost her front teeth? Was she pregnant? Had she suffered a facial paralysis? Perhaps a lip cramp? Maybe it's just a feminised self-portrait by Leonardo! For five centuries Mona Lisa has fed debates and a long series of hypotheses - both scientific and far-fetched - and even inspired a good deal of literature (from Baudelaire to Dan Brown) and iconoclastic works of art (one need only mention Duchamps's bearded Mona Lisa!). Recently even sophisticated computerised techniques have been used to further explore the enigmatic, perfect image's secrets. In order to unveil the mystery, Mario Alinei carefully examines other Leonardo paintings and drawings and offers an explanation that will certainly surprise his readers.
Contents: 1. Mona Lisa's Smile. - 2. Mona Lisa Iconoclasm. - 3. Causes of Iconoclasm. - 4. Leonardo's Weirdness, Vagaries, and Folly - 5. Leonardo Ludens: Puzzle Pictograms and Literary Playfulness. - 6. The Artist as "Master of All Things" and Painting as Deception. - 7. "In the Company of the Dead". - 8. Mona Lisa's Eyes. - 9. The Hands. - 10. The Widow's Veil. - 11. The Clothes and the Hairstyle. - 12. The Countryside. - 13. So, Who Was Mona Lisa?- 14. Leonardo's Repentance. - Conclusion. - Notes.
Mario Alinei is professor emeritus at the University of Utrecht, where he taught from 1959 to 1987, and has written many important studies on languages in Europe.