Lisa del Gioconda may or may not be a name recognized by just anyone. She does have a much more well-known alter-ego that everyone would have heard of. For the past 500 years, the reason behind her world-famous smile has been debated and assessed every which way it could. Perhaps she knew something we don’t.
Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, an English art collector discovered an unfinished painting in the home of a peer of the realm in Somerset. Hugh Blake, the collector, managed to barter the price of a few guineas for the artwork and transferred it to his studio in Isleworth, Middlesex.
According to established history, the 24-year-old maiden was married to Francesco del Gioconda, a man almost twice her age, when Leonardo was commissioned to paint her portrait. Leonardo became more and more obsessed with her as he worked, but the reasons for this were not recorded. Leonardo was said to have spent several years working on the painting but was never satisfied with how it turned out. He eventually presented the unfinished portrait to Gioconda.
Fifteen years later, King Francis I of France acquired a finished work similar to the one that Leonardo spent so much time on. This painting, however, was completed. It was smaller than it had been but showed no signs of trimming when tested back in 2004. It had no columns on either side of the subject, nor did it show as much in the way of background. The subject herself appeared to be in her thirties. Since 1797 it has taken pride of place in the Louvre.
If medieval author Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo is correct, then Leonardo produced a pair of portraits: Mona Lisa and La Gioconda. Given that Lomazzo dedicated his book to an ardent Leonardo admirer – Don Carlos Emmanuelle, the Grand Duke of Savoy, this is hardly going to be some sort of misprint or mistake.
The state of the art security measures is not actually protecting the Mona Lisa. That is most likely sitting in a vault somewhere, far from the eyes of the world.