Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

What in the World: The Mona Lisa

What in the World: The Mona Lisa

Jill Kalz
For ages 8 to 12
The Creative Company, 2005   ISBN: 978-1583412725

Leonardo da Vinci began work on his painting, the Mona Lisa in Florence, Italy, in 1503 when the Renaissance was at its peak. It was a time when people where encouraged to use their minds and their creativity here on earth in this life, and not just to think about life in the hereafter. At this time there was an explosion of interest in the arts and sciences, in trade and travel. It was the perfect environment for a man like Leonardo because it gave him the freedom to try new techniques, to explore his world, and to study freely the subjects that interested him.

Leonardo was fifty-one when he began his famous painting and he used two painting techniques to create it and to give it its ethereal quality and its illusive patterns of light and shadow. This painting was to have a profound effect on how portraits were to be painted from this time on, and one can see Mona Lisa like techniques in many paintings dating from this time onwards.

It is believed by some that the sitter in the portrait is Lisa Gherardini Giocondo and that it was commissioned by her husband to celebrate several happy events in his life. Whoever the sitter was, the painting was clearly very dear to Leonardo for he took it wherever he went on his travels and he never gave it to the person who commissioned it.

It now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It was stolen once by a man who thought that it should be returned to Italy. It took two years to find the painting and to return it to the Louvre.

This book beautifully tells the story of an artist, an era, and a painting. It helps the reader understand how Leonardo da Vinci was influenced by the extraordinary times he was living in and at the same time how his revolutionary style of painting changed painting techniques forever. Superb annotated illustrations, informative side bars, and a timeline at the back of the book make this book perfect for anyone who is interested in the Renaissance, its people, and its art.