Tuesday, February 14 2017, 10:11:14
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Shreeya Kishanpuria Agarwal

IWB Intern

An Art Critic Claims Mona Lisa’s Uncanny Smile Indicates She Suffered From This STD

  • IWB Post
  •  February 9, 2017


Let me tell you a story. Far away, in the land of French, sits Lisa Gherardini. She was the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

She was stolen in 1911 and the great Pablo Picasso was brought in for questioning. Gherardini was quite a famous woman and the world was after her. He was found innocent and let free. The thief, Vincenzo Peruggia was caught 2 years later. Lisa Gherardini returned home in 1914, long after she had passed away. Gherardini, you see, was a woman of the 16th century.

The world fondly remembers her as Mona Lisa. You understand now?

Louvre in France is the house of the portrait of Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci began painting her in 1503. In 2017, she is the best known, most visited, most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world. Mona Lisa represents the cornerstone of Italian Renaissance art.

You know she is the most famous for her emblematic smile. Something about it makes you want to know her story. Her smile is said to depict happiness, an Italian translation of her husband’s last name, Giocondo. Leonardo wanted this painting to say happy. However, some people find her smile to be coy.

But there is one man who perceives the expression a little differently. Art critic Jonathan Jones wonders why she isn’t smiling more. He has another story to share: The lady isn’t smiling because she has an STD ― syphilis, to be exact. And despite the fact that she’s posing for what will later become the most renowned portrait of all time, she can’t stop thinking about disease, her impending death, and how scary sex is.

Jones found proof to his story in a ledger of a Florentine convent. The ledger documents Lisa’s purchase of snail water from the convent’s apothecary. Snail water, you know, was a pre-modern medicinal antidote to STDs.

“Pools of dark shadow spread across Lisa Giocondo’s face,” Jones narrates, “lending definition to her beauty, but also hinting at a melancholy behind her half-smile. The shadows around her eyes could easily seem unhealthy. The strange greenish light that bathes her could be a miasma of sickness. It’s like, she’s beautiful, but she’s also not really making eye contact and looks a little tired. Must be syphilis. Classic syphilis.”

Do you see it? Sickness or happiness?

Working through a woman’s mind?! It’s a maze.

Lisa Gherardini died long ago. But she continues to sit in a corner in the land of the French. She is fondly remembered as Mona Lisa. This is her story and it is not the end of it.

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