Mona Lisa da Vinc's Chinese Slave Mother?

A historian is saying that the Mona Lisa might be Leonardo's mother - who also happened to be a slave and Asian. This isn't the first time Mona's identity has been theorized about, nor is it the first time Leonardo's mother Caterina's ethnicity has come into question. Based off of Leonardo's fingerprints others have claimed her to be Arab. It's unclear why they think she may have been a slave. There are really only a couple pieces of information about her.

Her name was Caterina and she never married Leonardo's father but she did marry someone else and had 5 children with. (Leo has 17 half brothers and sisters between his parents) Leonardo was raised by his father's side of his family mainly due to his father's first wife not being able to have children. The only other mention of Caterina is from Leonardo's notebooks where he mentions that a "Caterina" came to live with him and subsequently died - and the funeral expenses. It's unclear if he is referring to his mother or if it was a servant with the same name. Freud had some interesting theories about it (read here)

As for the Mona Lisa being a portrait of his mother - that is less likely, at least directly. The age of the woman in the painting wouldn't align with his mother's age during the time she was painted. Leonardo was in his 50s-60s when he painted her so his mother would have been much older. It's possible that she had an influence in the concept of the painting but not the actual appearance making the Mona Lisa more like a amalgamation of many people that were important to Leonardo rather than any single person. 

Leonardo's own face aligning with the Mona Lisa may make a case for it being his mother but the alignment is less about the faces looking similar but more so that they are able to align in a more technical way. Implying they were meant to be combined. 

As for her looking Asian - it's probably because of the "Sfumato" painting technique that Leonardo used - especially around her eyes. Sfumato means "smoke" and is a type of shading with paint so that there is a gradual transition between the colors. This is also the reason that people see various expressions on her face - the areas around her eyes and mouth are undefined so depending on the distance, angle, and 'focus' of the observer - her expression seems to change. So if you squint your eyes when you are looking at her - she also appears to squint or even blink back at you. This combined with the apparent lack of eyebrows gives her a more 'exotic' appearance. 

Previous blogs about her identity:

When was Mona Lisa painted? (Mona DOB?) March 8, 2012

Mona Lisa's landscape? Jan 11, 2011

Mona Lisa's Real Identity Jan 12, 2011

Lisa Gherardini? Is she "Mona Lisa"? Oct 14, 2010

Mon Salai/ Love's Prison Feb 2 -2011

Mona Lisa or Mon Salai?

"I am sure up to a point that Leonardo's mother was from the Orient, but to make her an oriental Chinese, we need to use a deductive method."

"One wealthy client of Leonardo's father had a slave called Caterina. After 1452, Leonardo's date of birth, she disappeared from the documents. She was no longer working there. During the Renaissance, countries like Italy and Spain were full of oriental slaves."


 "An Italian historian's theory that Mona Lisa might be a Chinese slave and Leonardo da Vinci's mother -- making the 15th-century polymath half-Chinese -- sent online commentators into a frenzy Wednesday.

Angelo Paratico, a Hong Kong-based historian and novelist from Italy, told the South China Morning Post: "On the back of Mona Lisa, there is a Chinese landscape and even her face looks Chinese."

Chinese web users expressed astonishment and disbelief Wednesday, posting dozens of parodies of the painting, with faces from Chinese comedians to British actor Rowan Atkinson grafted over her delicate features."

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