Classical literature references recognized in Mona Lisa

Yet another example of the incredible insights into visual material that can come from specialists in other fields.

In this case a Queens University Classics professor emeritus, Dr. Ross Kilpatrick, has suggested that the enigmatic barren background of the iconic da Vinci painting is actually a reference to particular passages from Horace and Petrarch.  Dr. Kilpatrick also reported that he has recently identified references to the wedding of Ariadne and Dionysus in The Kiss by Klimt.  This type of referencing was not uncommon in Renaissance (and later) works, but it is sometimes difficult to cite specific sources.  This is especially true when, as with the Mona Lisa, there is little iconography to aid identification.

Similar to anatomical drawings being recognized in the Sistine Chapel paintings by JHU neuroanatomists and the input of a Kew Gardens botanist easily identifying an odd plant in a Botticelli painting, the eyes of a specialist in classical literature has provided a viable explanation for the Mona Lisa’s unusual and (to the eyes of an art historian) puzzling background.

Read the full article on Dr. Kilpatrick’s findings here.

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The Art of Counting is dedicated to the memory of Margery Meilleur, who first taught me to view history through the eyes of the images we create.