The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is a portrait created by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century. Much like an evil clown painting, the mystery of her smile has driven many who have pondered it insane.

Come on, you just know those hands are going to reach out and choke the bejeezus out of you.

Just The Facts

  1. The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings of all time, and is considered one of Master Painter Leonardo da Vinci's greatest works. Named 'La Joconda' or 'La Gioconde', the fact that she gets to have a Cracked Topics page is testament to her fame.
  2. The features of the painting have been the source of wide speculation, with theories ranging from scientific to crossdresser-iffic. (We are not kidding. Read on.)
  3. The Mona Lisa currently resides in the Musee du Louvre, Paris, where it is in constant guard and protected by enough security devices to ward a platoon of Dan Brown enthusiasts, Lupin III, and Catwoman.

About Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was and remains one of the art world's most respectable artists. Born in 1452, describing him as a 'very talented person' is an understatement so very 'under-' that Morlocks peer down on it from a twenty-foot hole.

Da Vinci was a painter, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. As one of the most balls-to-the-wall-talented persons who ever walked the Earth, he received many accolades from the modern world, particularly the respect of art scholars, the reverence of popular culture, and a Wikipedia page.

Also, Da Vinci is only one of four - only four - people who have had the divine privilege of his name being used for an anthropomorphic turtle who happens to be a ninja. Let's see you put that on your resume.

Depicted: A symbol of goddamned privilege.

Da Vinci's other famous works include the Vitruvian Man, an illustrated study on the proportions of the human body relating to architecture and geometry (read: a four-armed dude with no pants on), sketches for the first modern parachute, design ideas for both a boat and a flying machine (read: an airplane), The Last Supper (read: a painting where Jesus presumably becomes sick of taking the tab for dinner), an eight barreled machine gun, and a giant crossbow. Those last two Harbingers of Badassery-Caused Death were true ideas of Da Vinci, and history thankfully has the sketches to prove it. The man who was sensitive enough to paint Jesus' final repast was filled with enough war ideas to invent a Giant Fucking Crossbow and an Eight-Barreled Fucking Machine Gun.

The small handwriting details Da Vinci's intricate plans to ventilate his critics.

It is unknown when Da Vinci decided to begin the Mona Lisa, but it was put close to 1503 or 1504 in Italy. After working awhile on initial drawings, Da Vinci following up what appears to be the longest initial work on a painting with what appears to be the longest procrastination periods known to man, abandoning work on the painting after four years. The great artist finished his painting in 1519, which only tells us that you can do jack for a few years and still come out on top.

"Eh, I've done enough for today. I'll just finish the rest of my soon-to-be-one-of-the-most-popular-paintings-in-history tomorrow. Or three years later. Whatever."

The Background

The Mona Lisa's background shows a riverbed, near a winding road covered by the subject's body. That road presumably leads to a bridge seen to the right of the painting, heading towards an opening flanked from each side by two mountains. That road could lead to Narnia or Hogwarts or the Land of Erotic Delights for all we care (in which case the Mona Lisa would spurn the greatest hunt for a location in a painting in history).

What is important is that scholars have noticed a suspicious error in the way Da Vinci aligned the background. The horizon of the left side of the painting appears to be unaligned with the horizon on the right side.

What could be the mystery behind this error? Was this evidence that Da Vinci started on the left side, dropped the ball, dicked around for a few years, and continued his work years later? Was the great artist snookered when he started painting the thing? Was the uneven horizon made by a gaping fissure in the middle of the ground, covered and made by the steps of the one-hundred-foot-tall woman staring wickedly at Da Vinci?

The Mona Lisa.

Although that last theory brings a strange - not to mention bowel-voiding - new context to Da Vinci's masterpiece, one of the most popular and well-supported reasons is that Da Vinci deliberately did this as an art technique. Not aligning the surfaces causes the left side of The Mona Lisa to look larger than the right side. For some reason (magic) this makes Mona Lisa look prettier from the left. Also, skimming through the pages of The Da Vinci Code says that Da Vinci did this because he believed left was the symbol of feminine beauty, and wanted to emphasize its importance. He may be a genius at this, but to us ordinary people it's like you wearing a size-12 shoe with a size-10 one because you think your left toe is cuter than the other.

Little know about Conan O'Brien's support of Da Vinci's 'Emphasize One Side More Than the Other' Technique.

The Subject

The true identity of the woman in the Mona Lisa has been the topic of intellectual discussion for decades. Some of the interesting theories:

She was His Mom

Little is known about how this theory came into existence, but ideas remain about how the smile of the painting could have originated from his mother, Caterina.

Nah, She was Da Vinci's Girlfriend

Isabella of Aragon, the Duchess of Milan, was one of the women thought to be the subject of the painting. Furthermore, she was also speculated to be her lover, which was said to the reason for her passionate smile, directed at the artist. The situation described in the last sentence also happens to be the eternal waking fantasy of swimsuit model photographers across the globe.

No, She was a Fatty

An Italian scientist, Dr. Vito Franco, speculated that the Mona Lisa was probably suffering from high cholesterol, a symptom of which was the way Da Vinci painted her eyes. If this was true, and if the subject was, indeed, Da Vinci's girlfriend, it may have been a total bastard to get her to pick which dress to wear, thus producing the first painting capturing the essence of the Girlfriend Paradox.

No, Dudes, She was Pregnant

Another theory states that the woman was pregnant when she posed for the painting. The garment worn by the subject was said to be something worn by women who were expecting during Da Vinci's time. Of course! That must be why she didn't pose in a two-piece bikini. Logic. The only thing that would top this would be a theory saying Mona Lisa was Da Vinci dressed in drag...

It was Da Vinci Dressed in Drag


Research (and also possibly an insight-inducing amount of quaaludes) has shown that the Mona Lisa's face contains geometrical similarities to Da Vinci's own. If this theory is true, then Da Vinci totally painted a self-portrait of him in drag, pretty bad for someone whose sexual preference was often questioned.

Da Vinci's sexuality was also an intense topic of discussion. Historians have uncovered details about Da Vinci's being charged for sodomy, his close relationships with his young (male) proteges, as well as his long-lasting relationships with men such as Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno and Count Francisco Melzi. This doesn't remove the fact that Da Vinci is a genius. What it is, however, is what we call 'pretty damning evidence' that Mona Lisa might be Da Vinci.

Newsflash, moron. Einhorn is Finkle.

No, Dudes, You're All Wrong.

The most plausible answer to her identity was that she was Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Franciso del Giocondo, a merchant. Da Vinci was commissioned to create a painting for Giocondo's wife for their new house. The 'Mona' prefixed to the title came from 'ma donna', or my lady, which was then contracted to become 'mona' as a form of endearment.

I Still Think It's Da Vinci.

Shut Up.

The Face

Two things are of great importance when looking at Mona Lisa's face. We'll give you two minutes to check what's wrong with this picture:

What? All I see is - wait, what the hell? Where the hell are her eyebrows?

Congratulations, you now have found something to laugh about the Mona Lisa, you art heathen. Yes, the Mona Lisa appears to have no eyebrows, and the reason for this, is, yet again, the source of more speculation. (This writer is seriously sick of the word 'speculation').

However, digital scanning of the painting has revealed that Mona Lisa did have eyebrows - they were only erased. A Parisian engineer, Pascal Cotte, used modern technology and 3000 hours of research to learn that the eyebrows were probably accidentally erased during restoration work on the painting. This tells us two things: a) Pascal Cotte has too much time on his hands; and b) The guy who sabotaged the restoration work must have been one hell of an art hater, or a fucking idiot. But what if he was both an art hater and a fucking idiot?

Above: Restoration Work.

Of even more notoriety is the smile of Mona Lisa, which has been the source of many (don't say it, don't say speculations dammit) theories. Her enigmatic smile has been the source of more questions than the Riddler holding a riddling contest in the middle of a press conference.

In actuality, the reason why different people have unique interpretations about Mona Lisa's smile is because Da Vinci used an art technique to allow them to do just that. Da Vinci created a technique called sfumato ("smoky" or "vanished" in Italian) giving an ambiguous look to the painting. It manipulates the peripheral vision into making viewers think her smile becomes wider when you're not looking at it directly. So, in essence, it works like the creepy guy across you in the subway, who may or may not be thinking of strangling you with his extension cord belt.

Theft, Recovery, and Damage

In August 22, 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia proved that museum employees can turn into goddamned Sam Fisher when they goddamn want to when he strode out of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa in his jacket.
Peruggia, an Italian, strongly believed that the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy, as the Mona Lisa was painted by his countryman, Leonardo da Vinci. Now, patriotism is a very valiant act, but apparently this guy wouldn't settle for waving flags. Not-at-freaking-all. So Vincezo - infamously known in the art theft underground as Vincenzo 'The Louvre Employee' Peruggia - stole the Mona Lisa because that's what you do to show you love your country, dammit. We wouldn't be surprised if the Lincoln Memorial gets dragged away by a tank, the guy inside it chanting "USA! USA!" any day now.

The Mona Lisa was lost for two years while the general populace probably sent out their police, wringed their hands, beat their brows and constantly yelled the French equivalent of 'Fuck'. Like the logic stating that only Robot Jesus can defeat Robot Satan, or that only a pussy can beat you, it took the Italian police to arrest Peruggia, and afterwards the Mona Lisa was returned. Whether Peruggia swore revenge and emerged from prison to hide in his underground lair, plotting his next heist of vengeance was never specified. (For more information on this, check out The Seven Real World Heists That Put Ocean's 11 To Shame)

This, however, did not deter people from trying to mess shit up for the Mona Lisa. The painting was doused with acid, thrown at with a rock, thrown at with a teacup, and spray-painted. Deciding that the Mona Lisa was attracting more fury than Windows Vista, the management decided not to send the Mona Lisa out internationally, and kept it in the Louvre. Perhaps the curators decided that it would be easier to beat the shit out of people who tried to steal the Mona Lisa if they would have to go to the museum itself. Maybe something along the lines of, "No escape, monsieur. Let me take you to a tour of My Fist Punching your Face, Part One of a Seventeen Part Series. Enjoy, monsieur!" (Punches thief in the face)