LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Mona Lisa (detail)1503-5
Oil on panel
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The detail shows the landscape with a bridge in the background.
In his treatise on painting, Leonardo wrote that in a good painting contours had to become more blurred the further into the background they were. This creates his famous sfumato, which makes all things look as if they were seen through a veil. There was nothing new in depicting landscapes as decorative or symbolic backgrounds to portraits, but Leonardo's skill lay in his ability to combine both pictorial elements into one harmonious whole by linking them to each other in various ways. The bridge, for example, is nothing more than a continuation of the archlike rising veil draped across the Mona Lisa's left shoulder.