The Suffolk Mona Lisa
oil on canvas – 60 x 90 cm
This was inspired by watching some great painting shows on youtube by the infamous forger John Myatt. On his website he sells his ‘Original Fakes’ and it got me thinking I would like to have a go a trying recreate a famous painting. I also encourage my students, every now and again to make ‘Master Copies’ – It is such a great way to learn and i’m sure after hours of work studying a great master like Leonardo Da Vinci – you cant help come out the other side a slightly improved artist!
So this was the end result. I painted it in my classes last year and I would have to add a word of thanks to some of my students who were happy to point out if an eye need moving or a nose needed lengthening! – I painted the whole thing as a monorchrome study using just Burnt Umber and White – Then with the help of a useful guide (Paint your own masterpiece by Mark Churchill – available second hand) added some extra colours – some of which I havent ever used including terre verte (a greyish green) – Venetian Red and Carmine. Learning about these new colours was worth the exercise itself!
This is the end result! – In the background I included a recognisable landmark from the Suffolk Countryside. It was suggested that Leonardo painted the background to include the mountains near where he grew up Vinci – so it seemed appropriate, although im not sure how famous he would have been if he had been called Leonardo de Gippeswyk.
In the end I was happy with her face….but of course the more I studied the original the more enigmatic it became, its quite a humbling experience. I enjoyed it though and could make more sense of this nice piece written by Walter Pater to describe the mystery of the Mona Lisa:
‘……this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed! All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the mysticism of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes.’