Why then does the ‘Lady of the Louvre’ have such a dull, monochromatic appearance today? When exposed to light, air and humidity, pigments age and darken over time, and the mixed oil resins will yellow and loose transparency with age. Restorative efforts included overcoats of varnish that also darkened the overall tone. Subtle details such as the eyebrows and eyelashes, painted with pigments mixed from organic dyes, have faded. The vivid reds and greens of the silk and satin garments, which were achieved by layered oil glazing have darkened into tones of deep brown and greenish black.
The color of the Mona Lisa’s sleeves in da Vinci’s original were red, as shown in the verified Renaissance copy known as La Giaconda. The upper portion of the lustrous red sleeves show through the lacy mantle. The dress is a contrasting deep forest green with elaborate brocades. Included here also are the subtle patterns of the sheer lace veil that stands out from the hair at the edge of her face. Mona Lisa’s hair and eyes are depicted in rich chestnut hues with golden highlights.
A notable feature in the Mona Lisa, according to early written accounts, was the magnificent landscape of the background. Below a brilliant blue sky was a series of verdant foothills receding to lofty, snow covered peaks shrouded in mist. In this restoration we can see the atmospheric perspective that lends volumetric form to the foreground and a deep dimension to the painting as a whole. Visible also are the stone window sills, in front of which the Mona Lisa sits.
Recent commentary on other reproductions that are based on scanned imagery include a suggestion that the Mona Lisa holds a blanket that has all but faded from view. However, it is clear in the digital restoration pictured here that the left arm is resting on a plain wooden armrest with a lathed upright support. The fingers of the hand are limp and relaxed, touching the edge of the armrest, and clearly not gripping or holding anything.
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa
Men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only cause you’re lonely
They have blamed you
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there, and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa
Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art