For this purpose, Mrs. Garcia's 4th grade students are creating a new version of the Mona Lisa. This image has been printed at a scale of approximately 22"x30", and divided into 36 pieces. Each student received a piece to redraw or decorate, using any material they want, but following the colors as closely as possible. They will then reassemble the pieces to create a new version of the Mona Lisa, produced by all the students of Mrs. Garcia's class, to be raffled off at the AOE Carnival.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo only painted a few paintings, even though he felt painting was the most important art form. This one is of Ginevra de' Benci, painted around 1474. It is his only painting located outside of Europe, at our very own National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. You can paint your own portraits at this NGA site, about this painting.
Leonardo was curious about how the world work, and he studied everything he could by observing the world around him. Even though he didn't have scientific training to perform experiments, his observations were more detailed than any before him and he made important contributions, such as understanding that the age of a tree could be determined by the rings in its trunk. Because cameras were not available then, he recorded everything he studied by drawing it.
In addition to painting, Leonardo was an amazing inventor.
An fun site, Universal Leonardo, gives us interactive ways to play with some of Leonardo's ideas, and an interesting organization of Leonardo's work. It was developed by the University of the Arts, London, England.
One fun fact is that he wrote in the mirror image of everyone else, from right to left, instead of left to right like we do. This image shows a list from one of his journals, the columns are aligned on the right. We don't know why, some people think he wanted to hide what he was writing, but because Leonardo was left handed, it might simply have been easier for him to pull the pen, like right handed people, than push it. Here's a website where you can try writing in the mirror image like Leonardo.
The Mona Lisa
What do you think of her smile? When do you smile like that? Mona Lisa is famous for her smile, people puzzle over what she is thinking about.
Leonardo started this painting in 1503 in Italy. He finished painting the Mona Lisa in 1519 in France, where he had been invited to paint by King François I. After Leonardo died, King François I obtained the painting, and it has been owned by the French royalty and government ever since. It now hangs in the Louve, at Paris, France, one of the worlds best art museums.
How did the painting get the name Mona Lisa? In 1550, Giorgio Vasari wrote a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, referred to Lisa Giocondo as Mona Lisa: "Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife...". In Italian, Mona is a contraction of madonna, from ma donna, which means my lady, a polite way to address someone.
Mona Lisa has been a curiosity, as people wondered who she was, and not knowing, it was possible for her and the reason for her smile to be who we imagined. Only in 2005, have we finally confirmed that the portrait is of an Italian woman named Lisa del Giocondo. She was a member of the Gherardini family, and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting may have been commissioned for their new home and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea. Maybe she's happy, thinking of her new baby.
Here is a video from the Louve that talks about the Mona Lisa.
The Style: High Renaissance
The way that people paint changes alot over time.
In the Middle Ages, during the 1100s, called the 12th century, before the Renaissance when Leonardo painted. Individual people were not important, but religion was. So, pictures were icons of religious figures, not portraits of people. They showed an idea of the figures, so they didn't look real. This was painted in 1100s, called the 12th century.
During the Renaissance, people believed that individuals could do important things, and they wanted paintings of themselves. In the early Renaissance, personal portraits were painted, but they were still stylized and not very realistic.
Leonardo was a master painter. The Mona Lisa is painted in the style of the times, but he perfected the style.
Mona Lisa was valued for being by Leonardo, but it was not popular until the 1800s when poets began to appreciate her. Then, they didn't know who she was, and that puzzled people, and made them curious. Why was she smiling? What was she thinking? Who was she? People started to feel it was an important painting.
Other Mona Lisas
The art community started to notice. The first group to reproduce her was called the "Incoherents". They liked to poke fun at famous things, and painted the Mona Lisa with a pipe in 1883.
Marcel Duchamp, part of the Dadaist movement, painted a mustache and goatee on an inexpensive reproduction of Mona Lisa in 1919. Dadaists were protesting the first world war by rejecting traditional values in art by mocking paintings such as the Mona Lisa.
Salvador Dali, a Surrealist, painted his own face on Mona Lisa in 1953, as he studied how our memory and dreams distort reality. Maybe he dreamt of himself as the Mona Lisa.
In 1963, at the request of the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, the Mona Lisa was exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. After that tour, repainting the Mona Lisa became very popular.
Andy Warhol led the "Pop Art" movement, which used popular objects in their art, such as a Campbell's soup can. He also believed that art could be produced in large quantities, so that people with a lower income could also own art (he cared about people, and often helped in soup kitchens). In 1963, he used Mona Lisa as one of his famous silkscreen stamps, and painted several pictures with her image.
And Warhol himself was then turned into a product, a Recife fountain pen was made after Andy Warhol and his 1978 Blue Mona Lisa.
Here's a video:
Everyone's Mona Lisa
Today, the Mona Lisa is the most famous portrait in the world. It was reproduced in over over 300 paintings and 2,000 advertisements. Here are a few:
We are continuing that art tradition, maintaining the legacy of the Mona Lisa, by creating our own version, designed by every student in Mrs. Garcia's 2008-2009 class at Aviara Oaks Elementary.