Mona Lisa by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
1. While many people refer to Leonardo as "da Vinci", that is not his surname. "Da Vinci" references what part of Florence (in modern day Italy) he was from. Calling him "da Vinci" would be like calling you "of Kansas City" or "of your hometown". "Di ser Piero" means "son of (Mes)ser Piero, referencing his father. During his time, he would have been referred to as just "Leonardo", his given name. What name do you like to go by? Do you use your first name, as is typical in the modern U.S., a middle name, a nickname? If you got to pick your own name, what would you choose?
2. Many people, experts and lay people alike, believe the Mona Lisa to be the most well-known art in the history of the world. It is certainly a popular subject of parody art. Parody is where another person will imitate the style of an artist in an exaggerated way, generally to be funny. Miss Piggy, Princess Leia and Lego figures have all had their turn at playing Mona Lisa in a parody of the painting. Have your teacher or parent help you look up Mona Lisa parodies on Google. Which one do you think is the funniest? [Grown ups! Make sure you have Safe Search on before doing this!]
3. While Leonardo left no definite record of who the Mona Lisa model was, historians mostly agree that she was Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Her first name was not Mona. "Mona" in Italian is a polite form of address, like Madam or "my lady" in English - in other words, Madam Lisa. Visit these sites (again - with your grown up) to see different ways of saying Madam and Sir in other languages. Which do you think would sound nice with your name?
4. Mona Lisa is the English name for this painting. In Italian, the painting is known as "La Gioconda", the feminine form of Lisa's married name. Gioconda also means "happy" or "jovial". Historians believe that the painting was commissioned for Lisa and Francesco del Giocondo's new home and in celebration of their second child's birth. Think about all the art you have made so far. Is there one piece you are really proud of and you'd like to see hanging in a museum some day?
5. Remember the painting from last week? The Horse Fair? That painting was REALLY BIG. A lot of people imagine Mona Lisa to be very big as well. A lot of art from that time period was bigger than life. But the painting was relatively small, only 77 cm x 53 cm (30 in x 21 in). Measure that out. That is approximately the same size as standard poster board (28 in x 22 in). Mona Lisa was painted on wood - a panel of poplar wood - not canvas. Over the years, the wood has warped and cracked. Through expert restoration work and a strictly controlled environment at the Louvre, Mona Lisa is being protected and preserved so she can smile upon her admirers for many generations to come.