The Mona Lisa is without doubt the most famous image in art history, (the most famous does not imply that it is the best). We have become familiar with the image on postcards, advertisements and copies in various forms, some are faithful reproductions, others are not. I have even seen a dog's head superimposed on the painting and the image is so well known that it is instantly recognisable, even after such distortions.
Please try to look at this image with fresh eyes!
The wife of a Florentine official Mona Lisa was not a famous beauty, or even a lady of any great note, but in 1502 Leonardo painted a portrait that is more alive than anything that had been seen previously.
Leonardo has achieved his masterpiece by leaving something to the imagination. The outline is not firmly drawn and is softened almost merging with the background and the colours are mellowed, this also allows the forms to merge with each other. This harmonious invention of Leonardo's has been given the Italian name 'sfumato'.