One of the most debated mysteries of the art world is that of the Mona Lisa, particularly, why is she so mysterious? What’s behind that simpering little smirk, a smile that has spawned movies and songs and poetry and smirk-imitators? Who is she, really? And, was SHE not a SHE at all, but actually a HE? According to the latest of theories put forth about M. Lisa, da Vinci’s model may have been a “male apprentice, longtime companion and possible lover” — not a woman, and not Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo, long thought the most likely candidate for the portrait. Nor a self-portrait of da Vinci himself.
Silvano Vinceti, the Italian researcher positing this Mona-Lisa-as-Dude theory, says that the man in the picture is da Vinci apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salai, and that his relationship with the painter was “ambiguous.” Other of da Vinci’s works have been based on Salai as well, claims Vinceti, and apparently his nose and mouth were a lot like the Mona Lisa’s. Or maybe everyone just looked alike in the old days!
Art historians, including French art historians at the Louvre, say Vinceti’s theory is groundless. Meanwhile, Vinceti acknowledges that the painting may have had a lot of influences, including that of Gherardini and others, and that “The ‘Mona Lisa’ must be read at various levels, not just as a portrait.”
And so…the mystery lives on. Really, he/she could be anyone.