Da Vinci’s Famous…Landscape?


posted by on History & Culture

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa (or La Gioconda in Italian) is one of the most, if not the most talked about, written about and well known paintings in the entire world. Began in Florence in 1503, and said to have been finished at least ten years later, the true identity of the woman portrayed in the painting is still uncertain. Leonardo’s Gioconda could have been the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant or perhaps the artist’s own mistress. As well as the speculation about the subject, the location of the background landscape has also been a mystery. That is perhaps, until now.

This famous painting, which depicts a woman with a mysterious smile, demonstrates two innovative artistic techniques; namely the use of the hazy, soft focus effect that is ‘sfumato’ and the ‘chiaroscuro’ light and shade concept. But as well as the ‘unknown’ subject and the impressive techniques, the painting also features an extensive background landscape that is made up of mountains, paths, hills, valleys and a bridge. This harmonious backdrop has been claimed by many to be imaginary and idealised, but in recent years, art historians and researchers have come to believe that it is in fact a real Italian landscape.

It is known that Leonardo travelled extensively in Italy, particularly around Rome, Venice and Bologna, so placing the location would take a lot of research. But there have been several claims in the past, concerning the Mona Lisa background, including the 2011 speculation by art historian Carla Glori, that the bridge in the painting can be identified as the bridge in Bobbio; a village in Emilia-Romagna.

However, there has been a more recent, and perhaps more solid identification of the landscape by two researchers who believe that the countryside is that of Montefeltro in the Marche region of Italy. They came across this information whilst studying the work of Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca; realising that a part of one of his landscapes reminded them very much of Da Vinci’s painting. They have identified not only the hills and the mountains (the one on the right is Monte Aquilone) but also the two rivers as the Senatello and the Marecchia, and have claimed that the bridge depicted has since been destroyed. In short, it seems like they just might have solved the landscape mystery.

When staying at one of our Tuscany holiday villas, particularly in the eastern part of the region, you are within easy reach of the Marches, so why not take a day trip to discover the type of beautiful landscape that was depicted in Leonardo’s most famous painting? Make sure you have a copy of the painting to hand though, so you can have a little check for yourself…

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