Lisa Gherardini: The woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa is widely considered as the most famous artwork in history. While we continue to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci, the artist of this masterpiece, it would be appropriate to highlight the contributions of some individuals who made this work possible.
One of such people is Lisa Gherardini. The Italian noblewoman has been recognized as the model used for the famous 16th-century painting. It is for this reason that the art is sometimes referred to as the “Portrait of Lisa Gherardini”.
Wondering who she was and why she was used in the painting? This article has all the information to satisfy your curiosity.
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Who was Lisa Gherardini?
Lisa was born in 1479 and was a native of Via Maggio in the Republic of Florence. She was a descendant of the House of Gherardini. The family has been described as a founder of the Republic of Florence. Her parents were Lucrezia del Caccia (mother) and Antonmaria di Noldo Gherardini (father).
She was named after her grandfather’s wife and was raised together with six other siblings – three brothers and three sisters. It has been said that Lisa got to know Leonardo when she and her family settled around Santa Croce. At that place, they stayed near the house of the artist’s father Ser Piero da Vinci.
In 1495, at the age of 15 years, Lisa became the wife of a wealthy silk and cloth merchant called Francesco del Giocondo. Francesco had already married two wives, making Lisa his third spouse. The couple had five children namely Piero, Andrea, Camilla, Piera, and Marietta. Two of their children (Marietta and Camilla) became nuns in the Catholic Church.
In 1499, her husband, Francesco, became a government official and was named to the Dodici Buonomini position. His love for his third wife was unmatched. In his 1537 will, Francesco decided to reward Lisa with jewelry and expensive clothes. He also made arrangements for his wife’s future.
How she became the face of the Mona Lisa
Francesco and his family were lovers of art. They were connected to many Renaissance artists including Domenico Puligo and Leonardo da Vinci. The latter was contracted by Francesco to work on a portrait of his third wife. It was also believed that the artwork was to celebrate the acquisition of their home, as well as the birth of their son, Andrea.
Da Vinci started the work around 1506 and completed in 1517. The art’s original name was “La Gioconda” which was in reference to the married name of Lisa. Its current name was revealed in da Vinci’s biography by Giorgio Vasari, a renowned art historian. In his book, Vasari confirmed that the image in the painting was indeed Lisa.
The painting portrayed how calm and virtuous Lisa was. The word “Monna” is a contraction of the word “madonna” which translates into English as “my lady” or “madam”. With this, we can say that the English name for the “Mona Lisa” is “My Lady Lisa”.
Who owns the Mona Lisa?
Leonardo did not hand over the artwork to the commissioners, the del Giocondo family. However, it is believed that the painting was left in the care of Salaì, one of the apprentices of da Vinci. After the death of the Italian artist in 1519, the work was acquired by the King of France, Francis I. Since then, it has become one of the country’s most cherished properties. It has spent most of its time at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
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Though Lisa’s works have not been documented, it is very possible that the Italian noblewoman played a huge part in the development of his husband’s business. As virtuous as she was, Lisa had a hand in the training of her kids.
The Via Maggio-born socialite fell ill after her husband died in 1538. After battling with the sickness for some time, Lisa joined passed away in 1542. There are some accounts that state that the noblewoman passed away in 1551.