Ethnography of Art: Mona Lisa

General Information

The art at hand is titled ‘Mona Lisa’ which is presented in the medium of a painting which originated from Florence, Italy. The materials used to generate ‘Mona Lisa’ include wood and oil created by Leonardo da Vinci between the year 1503 and 1506. ‘Mona Lisa’ is in the shape of portrait art and is currently housed by Louvre Museum in Paris, France (Encyclopedia of Art Education, 1).

The message of ‘Mona Lisa’

The emotional response deducted from ‘Mona Lisa’ is that of serenity. The presentation of the artwork elicits serenity deducted from the harmony in drapery and pose, soothing tone, and a muted color theme. The impact of ‘Mona Lisa’ on a viewer is vested on the presentation of the woman in the portrait, the choice of the background, color mixture and the pose. The imagination of an individual in the position of the person in the artwork or the emotions of the artist during the creation of the portrait prompts the creation of an ambiance marked with serenity. Experiences during one’s daily undertakings lead to varying emotions and in the case of ‘Mona Lisa,’ the enigmatic smile and the depiction of calmness marked by a surreal atmosphere enriches the serenity of the work.

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The intellectual response of ‘Mona Lisa’ is that the artwork is enshrined in mystery characterized by the enigmatic half-smile, the gaze and the position of the hands in the portrait. The in-depth of mystery in ‘Mona Lisa’ is further enhanced by the imbalanced background which comprises of a vanishing sky, flatlands, and a rocky horizon. In this case, the message intended by Leonardo da Vinci cannot be established in totality as ‘Mona Lisa’ is marked with mystery. However, the mystery attained by Leonardo da Vinci can be explained as part of the artist’s motive of expressing artistic competence and experience gained over time.

The communication of ‘Mona Lisa’ is inherent in the pose of the individual in the painting and the chosen background. According to the Encyclopedia of Art Education (1), ‘Mona Lisa’ is the image of Lisa Gherardini who was a wife of a wealthy silk merchant and a Florentine dignitary called Francesco del Giocondo. While the mystery is enshrined in ‘Mona Lisa,’ the message of serenity is evident in the gaze and the pose of the image. The posture marked by the sideways but upright sitting and the comfortable resting of the arms with the hands placed in a protective position indicates calmness and an aspect of satisfaction which could be the case in the life of the wife of a wealthy or prominent individual. The inspiration and evoking of the serenity emotions are established by the background and the posture in the portrait. A viewer is able to detect and relate to the perceived emotions of the woman in ‘Mona Lisa’ based on the presentation of the painting.

Based on the surreal setting of the background and the enigmatic half-smile in the portrait, it can be deemed that Leonardo da Vinci sought to pass a message of serenity and calmness within a world marked with imbalance and conflicts. The imbalance between the flatlands and the rocky horizon as well as the fading sky indicates the representation of daily life set-up. The half-gaze and calmness can be interpreted to mean the overcoming and appreciation of the world individuals live.


‘Mona Lisa’ is Renaissance portrait art in the medium of oil on wood measuring 77 cm by 53 cm according to the Encyclopedia of Art Education (1). The interaction with ‘Mona Lisa’ depicts a universal message. The mystery in ‘Mona Lisa’ allows for the incorporation of inscriptions, symbolic objects and gestures in a piece of art to provide a deeper meaning. It is evident that the work by Leonardo da Vinci aimed at giving a ‘soul’ to the painting. The presentation of the image allows it to elicit deep emotions and portray the existence of life due to the influence of ‘Mona Lisa’ on the viewers.

History and Power of ‘Mona Lisa’

‘Mona Lisa’ was created by Leonardo da Vinci while in Italy and completed the work when he relocated to France. ‘Mona Lisa’ was not sold but presented to King Francois I who kept the artwork in Fontainebleau according to Leonardo da Vinci website (1). ‘Mona Lisa’ arrived at Louvre, France in 1815 and has been in the museum since then except when it was stolen in the year 1911 and returned after two years. ‘Mona Lisa’ is universally accepted as a piece of art as it is an original painting. The French Heritage Law declares ‘Mona Lisa’ as art and cannot be sold or bought. ‘Mona Lisa’ is described to belong to the public and controlled by Louvre Museum. ‘Mona Lisa’ is contextualized as a priceless treasure which represents artistic brilliance. The valuation of ‘Mona Lisa’ and the rendering of the piece of art as not salable or buyable allow people to maintain a neutral power system. Here, no one can claim the ownership of the art and allows the global populations to access the famous work.


Art can be universally defined as any original creation that can elicit human emotions. Forms of art are diverse, and people attach different meanings to pieces of art developed. Due to variance in individual tastes and cultures and the respect for diversity, defining art as any original creation with bear meaning and elicit emotions allows for the accommodations of the different forms of art across distinct set-ups and genres.


Works Cited

Encyclopedia of Art Education. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. . [Online]. Available at [Accessed May 1, 2019]

Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa – by Leonardo da Vinci. [Online]. Available at [Accessed May 1, 2019]

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