Not only has the Mona Lisa been damaged by darkening layers of dirt and varnish, but it has been practically ruined by its own fame: who today can approach that famous smile with a fresh eye? Yet one gains much from a closer look. First, the head is round and full of flesh, in contrast to the flat, misshapen head of the Portrait of Ginevra de Benci of 1474. Leonardo's painterly career can be described as a quest for the perfect female head. The Mona Lisa is also relatively mute in its coloration–that is, its light coloring is due not only to fading, but due somewhat to the artist's intentions. Leonardo's preference for the shadows, veils, and sfumato possible in oil painting reaches its culmination in this portrait, where color and light are in perfect subservience to volume. The background here is typical of Leonardo's work: rocky crags and mists.
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This note was uploaded on 12/13/2011 for the course ART 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Texas State.