DATELINE: Plausible Theory about Mona’s Secret
A documentary on Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is always worth a glance, but we nearly clamped down on this one immediately. Secret of Mona Lisa is fairly entertaining documentary theory, despite a few missteps.
It falsely noted that the painting has been famous for “centuries,” not exactly true as it has been only well-known since its kidnapping in 1911. Before that, it was not well-protected or well-considered.
Then, the documentary narrator noted that Leonardo died at the “advanced age of 67.” Pardon us? Perhaps they meant that 67 was advanced in 1520. We hang tough.
It’s flatly called The Secret of Mona Lisa, to no surprise.
The point of the hour-long special was to come up with a plausible theory on Mona Lisa’s true identity. For years experts have grappled with the notion she was the third wife (albeit young trophy wife) of a rich Florentine silk merchant.
What businessman pays for a painting and never collects it? And worse, would he let his wife wear her worst, most colorless togs for the sitting? Of course, some experts think this is not the portrait of La Gioconda, the businessman’s wife; that particular portrait may actually be lost.
However, there are no records of payment, collection, transfer, or disposition until after Leonardo’s death when his boyfriend and young companion, Salai, lists a Gioconda picture among his after-effects. That one is definitely lost.
So, the Louvre picture is an entirely different portrait, misidentified as Mona Lisa Gioconda, the merchant’s spouse.
We have considered for years that Leonardo painted himself in women’s clothes for this little subject. Then again, all Leonardo’s subject faces look alike, as if he used the mirror to save on model costs.
The film comes up with the best theory of Mona Lisa’s identity that we have ever heard: though again, there is no record of it being commissioned by one of the Medici family as a picture of an illegitimate son’s dead mother.
She is, in fact, a representation of all motherhood for Leonardo, perhaps his own mother, as he too was out of wedlock born.
Since in later years, we ourselves commissioned a painting of our long-gone mother in her youth to hang in our home, we know the idea is not so far-fetched. Old men like to see a picture of their youthful mother who died long ago, too young.
In that sense, this little documentary struck a chord with us.