19th century philosophy

The Ambiguity of Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is a famous portrait that has fascinated people for a long time but its true meaning is still debated. Despite several interpretations, it’s hard to say what’s the painting meaning or what message the artist(Da Vinci) is attempting to convey. For example, one person might describe Mona Lisa’s smile as enigmatic and mysterious but another person can also see Mona Lisa’s expression as unhappy, but both are still seeing the same painting. However, despite trying to express their thoughts, they’ll discover how difficult is to capture the true meaning of the painting. This struggle emerges from the ambiguity of the Mona Lisa’s expression, which makes it hard to find a true interpretation.
The difficulty of capturing the true meaning of the Mona Lisa mirrors Hegel’s idea of the difficulty of capturing what we say or truly mean. Just as people struggle to explain the Mona Lisa expression, people also find it difficult to express clearly their thoughts.

3 thoughts on “The Ambiguity of Mona Lisa”

  1. Lesmie, I find your example of the Mona Lisa interesting and think it has the potential for many connections to Hegel’s ideas. It got me thinking, so here is an idea I came up with that builds upon your point about how the ambiguity of Mona Lisa’s expression makes it difficult to convey the emotion it portrays:
    The challenge of capturing truth with words mirrors the challenge of capturing emotion through art. Artists often try to depict emotion on paper, and while they may succeed in conveying some of it, they never capture its full richness, nuance, and complexity. Often people misinterpret the emotion the artist intended to express, as in the case of the Mona Lisa, suggesting that the emotion has not been captured exactly.

  2. Greetings Lesmie, I enjoyed reading this blog post of yours; quite succinct and intriguing! Harking back to my ART 1012 days with newfound insights, I suppose that Leonardo da Vinci’s signature sfumato (“smokey”) technique contrives an illusive aura, equally elusive and enigmatic, as you say in reference to the smile of the sitter, Monna Lisa del Giocondo. That is, the Monna Lisa is meticulously painted, yet loosely depicted, as Leonardo did without perceptible transitions. In lieu, he opted to dissolve outlines through subtlety achieved by layers of nearly transparent pigments. In this, one may observe an amusing parallel to how conscious perception (ostensibly) dissolves the oneness of an object into a miscellany of properties (§120). Yet, it is the oneness that bears objective truth, whilst the perceived disparate properties are subjective, hence untruths. Per former chief Louvre curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin, “[f]or [Leonardo] the painting doesn’t count—what counts is the knowledge.” That is, the transcendent truth imparted by the renaissance (“rebirth”) of classical sapience. Cuzin further posits that the landscape hosting the Monna Lisa is a microcosm, likewise elusive, in that much of the depth therein is illusory, glazed over though artfully rendered, fostering a sense of wonder upon the unseen vastness thereof. Indeed, herein, experiencing the masterpiece —as with any spectacle— is intrinsically subjective, but in permitting the nuances to be interpreted freely by the spectator, the peculiar element of abstraction stands integral to the harmony of the artwork. Therewith, it is the receptivity to alternative outlooks that permits novel experiences and inquiries, which guide the restoration of oneness therein.

  3. This is a really thought provoking post. I think the Mona Lisa was a great illustration of this concept. It is hard to capture what people truly mean and the inability to define the Mona Lisa’s expression highlights this idea. It reminds me of a song from the 1950s from Nat ‘King’ Cole called Mona Lisa that talks about the ambiguity of her smile. Literally. The entire song is about what Mona Lisa’s smile could mean. I agree with the post above about the difficulty of conveying meaning and emotion using art as a medium. Great post!

Leave a Reply