To master Mona Lisa's form, da Vinci carefully studied the human eye and mouth—and he dissected at least 30 human bodies.
How did Leonardo da Vinci Paint the "Mona Lisa"?
Published: November 11, 2019
Onscreen: How did Leonardo da Vinci paint the "Mona Lisa"?
Walter Isaacson: In order to paint the "Mona Lisa", Leonardo dissected at least 30 human bodies. He probably did not need to do all of those dissections and all of those studies of the eye and mouth to get the smile right. But he was Leonardo. He just wanted to know everything he could.
It’s that ability to see patterns across nature that makes smart people into creative people.
In the "Mona Lisa", you see every pattern he loves—including how water swirls. So you see in that picture the curve of the river, connecting to a curving road, connecting almost literally to the Mona Lisa. As he’s saying that the veins of the Earth connect to the veins of the human.
And that’s the cool thing about Leonardo. He’s always blending this notion of pure science but also mystery, and even miracles.
In order to be a genius, it’s not enough to be really intelligent. In fact, there are a lot of really intelligent people who don’t have creativity. They don’t “think different.” They don’t have an innovative way or inventive way of looking at things.
I think in order to be a genius, you have to think out of the box at times. You have to make leaps that others wouldn’t see. That’s what a lifetime spent connecting arts and sciences and humanities and everything you could know that leads up to being able to paint the "Mona Lisa".
Edited by: Fatima Husain
Senior Digital Producer: Ari Daniel
Additional Footage: NASA, Pixabay, Shutterstock, Videoblocks, Wikimedia Commons
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2019