Secret of the Smile

by Anantinee Mishra

The mysteriously captivating and darkly alluring smile of a woman is exactly what made a particular painting an object to immense worldwide fascination.

Mona Lisa (English) or La Gioconda (Italian) or La Joconde (French) is a famous portrait painting of an undiscovered woman, by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci. Considered a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, the painting is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after pieces of art in the world; its fame widespread through generations.

Its description would perhaps be considered as a common pose during the times it was created in. The woman is depicted in a three-fourth profile, sitting markedly uptight and with her arms folded, giving back an eerie and mysterious smile. The posture bears striking resemblance to the renaissance portrayals of the Virgin Mary, who was considered an ideal epitome of womanhood.

What made this painting seem real is, however, the unusual heights to which the lady seemed alive and breathing; as if she was sitting right in front of you and not in a portrait made ages ago. The second you draw away your eyes from the mass of colours and fusions, you can actually feel the lingering memory of her enigmatic smile in your mind; alluring and tempting in such a way that nobody can help turning back for a second look.

What is she thinking about?

The magic of Mona Lisa’s smile does its wonders, and lo behold, it would seem for a split second that her smile is actually flickering and waning.

In no other painting are motion and emotion, the paired touchstones of Leonardo’s art, so intertwined.

Many speculations about who the mysterious woman is have been made as time passed. It was suggested in 1550 by artist biographer Giorgio Vasari that the woman maybe Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Florentine merchant Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo, hence the alternative Italian title La Gioconda.

Another popular theory was that the muse was probably Caterina, Leonardo’s mother. This, personally, seems more likely; taken the fact that perhaps the mysterious, lingering feeling of Mona Lisa may be a subconscious memory of Caterina’s smile, in the depths of Da Vinci’s mind.

Another baffling suggestion was that the woman was Leonardo’s self-portrait, considering the similar physical features of the artist and his creation.

As enchanting and beguiling as the Mona Lisa’s unproven identity and perplexing smile is, the history of the painting is certainly no less. The painting was first treasured within the walls of French King Francis I’s palace; as it was in his court that Da Vinci had spent the last few years of his life. The painting then continued to be secluded in French palaces for centuries; an important part of the royal collections.

What is indeed the best part is, the painting even spent a considerable amount of time in Napoleon’s bedroom after insurgents claimed it as property during the French Revolution. Finally, the Mona Lisa was installed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, remaining one of the central tourist attractions.

Today, five centuries after its creation, Mona Lisa continues to remain a subject of inscrutable enrapturement. The idea of uncovering its mysterious smile and identity remains an unfulfilled fantasy of many across the globe.

Perhaps, it’s time now that we accepted reality.

Its time we accepted the fact that the reason behind the smile died in itself with Leonardo Da Vinci.

About the Author:

Anantinee ‘JHUMPA’ Mishra is a prodigy author, poet and TED speaker. She is twelve years old studying in std.8th at Apeejay School, Saket, New Delhi.  She has published two books and many stories and articles in magazines and journals. At the age of ten, she published a 21,000 worded anthology of stories called ‘Treasure of Short Stories’. Last year her debut Novel ‘Manhattan to Munnar’ got released. Recently she has been conferred with a title ‘PRODIGY AUTHOR’ and an ‘HONORARY DIPLOMA’ by the Hon’ble Vice President of  India Sh. M Venkaiah Naidu.


  1. Anantinee ‘s articulation is spectacular with her flowerish language as in every week ‘s presentation.We always eagerly wait for this and this one made us realise those of us who have seen it at Museum, enhanced our curiosity. This is a glimpse but penetrating. Thanks Anantinee, our Prodigy child writer.
    God Bless her.

  2. Miss Jhumpa is maturing in her writings on day to day basis

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