post #1 of 1
Thread Starter 
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is 'put in her place'

by: James Bone
From: The Times
November 27, 20123:30PM

Two "landscape hunters" claim to have found the real location for the background in Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied


TWO self-styled "landscape hunters" claim to have located the countryside in the background of the Mona Lisa.

The research is to be published in Italy next month in a book, Code P, by Olivia Nesci, a geomorphologist at the University of Urbino, and Rosetta Borchia, an artist-photographer. The two are co-authors of a 2008 study on the landscapes used in paintings of Piero della Francesca, the Early Renaissance master.

“On one of our excursions to study Piero della Francesca, we saw a patch of landscape which reminded us of La Gioconda (as the Mona Lisa is known in Italy). There was a confluence of rivers. It seemed to be the one in the painting so we started our study,” Ms Nesci said. “We are convinced that this is the landscape.”

Art historians have long debated whether Leonardo da Vinci based his masterpiece on an actual landscape or simply painted from his imagination.

In his biography of the artist, Leonardo da Vinci, Kenneth Clark wrote: “From his earliest work, Leonardo had felt that the only possible background to a picture was a range of fantastic mountain peaks.”

Ms Nesci and Ms Borchia insist, however, that the rivers, lakes and mountains are in the Montefeltro area. They identify the confluence of the two rivers as the joining of the Senatello and Marecchia rivers in the former Duchy of Urbino, a part of Italy that spans the borders of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and the Marche.

The pair divided the background of the Mona Lisa into six parts and identified the elements in each. “The lake is not there any more. Instead there is a depression filled with landslides,” Ms Nesci said. “The bridge is not there because it was destroyed, but we know that there was one there. The mountain by her head is Monte Aquilone. The hills beside the road are Sassi Simone and Sassi Simoncello,” she said.

Since Giorgio Vasari's biography of Leornardo in 1550, it has been thought that the sitter was Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, which is why the painting is known in Italy as La Gioconda. The name Mona Lisa derives from a contraction of the Italian ma donna or my lady.

Leonardo began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 but finished it only in 1519, shortly before his death. The researchers say Leonardo “compressed” the landscape and showed the same area as seen from two separate vantage points.

Ms Nesci and Ms Borchia are not the first researchers to claim to have found the site. One theory, presented by a teacher, Carlo Starnazzi, in 1995, is that the sketchy bridge near the Mona Lisa's left shoulder is the seven-arched Ponte a Buriano over the Arno outside Arezzo.

Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art at the University of Oxford and a Leonardo expert, is sceptical of efforts to identify the background. He also questioned the researchers' suggestion that Leonardo manipulated or compressed the landscape. “If Leonardo had wanted a landscape to look like a landscape somewhere, he could have done that,” he said.

The Times