Tag Archives: da vinci



Raphael thought Leonardo da Vinci’s colors were boring, and while Raphael isn’t the most popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Italian painter, he’s definitely on to something.

Enter unione. It’s basically the same as sfumato in its hazy smokiness, but with much more vibrant color. I like to think of it as seeing something full price one day, and on sale the next: similar, just better.

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Happy Friday, party people! I hope you’ll catch this series’ second post while you’re still at bars serving twofer Fireball shots, so you can impress all interns just a bar booth away!

Sfumato comes from the Italian word sfumare, meaning “shaded off.” It creates a smoky haziness that blends colors without the appearance of brushstrokes. Leonardo da Vinci is best-known for using sfumato in the facial features of Mona Lisa, as well as other works.

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stolen mona


The Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. Right off the wall. Some guy named Vincenzo Peruggia hid it in a closet, then walked off with it under his smock. Two years later, he wrote a letter to the director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery saying he had the painting. He signed the letter “Leonardo.” He didn’t want France to be celebrated for housing an Italian work.

I guess I feel that way about clothes I can’t afford, but you can’t just go around stealing the things you want, Vinny! Look at Winona (don’t worry, girl, Wino Forever).

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lady with an ermine

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), about 1488

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani. She ended up being the mistress of da Vinci’s boss, the Duke of Milan. Although she had his child, they didn’t end up together. I guess when you’re responsible for commissioning The Last Supper and making weapons with 80 tons of bronze that was supposed to be used for your own equestrian statue…you gotta go with someone more noble.

Probably why that ermine-ferret-thing looks so awful.



ginevra or nah


The portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci is the only one on display in Americas. There’s some debate as to whether the juniper tree and sprigs on the back of the work are a pun on her name (juniper is ginepro in Italian) or not. Traditionally, junipers are symbols of pain and loss, and are often used in widow portraiture. If that’s the case, there’s a chance that Ginevra is someone totally different! Scholar Maike Vogt-Luerssen said she’s Fioretta Gorini, widow of Giuliano de’ Medici (of, like, the Medicis!), who was assassinated in 1478. He was stabbed 23 times. Yikes! I thought that stuff only happened on the Game of Thrones.

I suppose I’ll have questions for the National Gallery, since their website totally takes the claim of her both being Ginevra and da Vinci using the juniper/ginepro as a pun for her name.

The painting is unique in that there’s a back. It says “beauty adorns virtue.” She also used to have hands, but the panel was cut down due to damage.


hova and the golden ratio

I’m about to connect some weird dots, but GO WITH ME on this. It’s like Chopped: In this post, you must use The Golden Ratio, the Mona Lisa, and Jay Z.

  • Golden Ratio: First, a quick math (!!!) lesson: The golden ratio is a special number found by diving a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is aso equal to the whole length divided by the longer part…For all those that need a good variable set, that’s a/b = (a +b) / a = 1.618You know who liked this Golden Ratio? Leonardo da Vinci.

   golden ratio
Illustration of golden ratio, obviously.

  • Leonardo da Vinci: No surprise that da Vinci loved math and was familiar with the Golden Ratio. There’s a lot of scholarship that looks at the Mona Lisa as a distinguished, mathematically-accurate artwork. If I show you, do I have to talk about it?mona lisa spiral
  • Jay Z: Maybe my most favorite secret ingredient! So, Jay Z has a song called “Picasso Baby” on Holy Grail (ugh, I KNOW, I barely knew it too). He creates a pretty creative…but mainly expensive…laundry list of artworks in the song. But, just as Yonce has Parisians screaming at her in a car, Hova appropriates his own French conversation:

WOMAN: I have given and shown you everything, with nothing to hide. There you are, Ivy, like the nombre d’or… Jay, how do you say nombre d’or?

JAY: “The golden number.”

Boom, Hov, LOVE IT. Your daughter is sooo perfect, she imitates immaculate proportions! Take that, Iron Chef Guarnaschelli — I am your new Chopped Champion! I’ll be around to collect my 10K this week.

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