Martin Kemp Book Launch
The Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting

Thursday 15 June, 6.30pm
Books department, lower ground

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening with Martin Kemp, acclaimed art historian and world-renowned authority on Leonardo da Vinci, around the launch of Martin’s new book on that most famous painting of all, the Mona Lisa.

We discover remarkable new things about members of Leonardo’s and Lisa’s immediate families, including unknown information about the painter’s early life. From these newly identified factual beginnings, Martin Kemp offers a radical interpretation of the Mona Lisa. Above all, he cuts though the suppositions and the myths to show that the portrait is a product of real people in a real place at a real time. And he shows that the actual Mona Lisa, as a “universal picture", is even more astonishing and transcendent than the Mona Lisa of legend.

Tickets £7, available online or at Customer Services, floor 2
Includes a glass of wine on arrival and a discount on the book on the evening.

More about the book...

The world's most famous image will never look the same again, for this cultural icon still has secrets to reveal: previously unknown facts about the lives of Leonardo, his father, Lisa Gherardini (the subject of the portrait), and her husband Francesco del Giocondo.

We meet, for the first time, previously undiscovered members of Leonardo’s immediate family and discover new information about his early life. We learn about the new money of the ambitious merchant who married into the old gentry of Lisa's family. We discover Lisa's life as a wife and mother, her association with sexual scandals, and her later life in a convent. The tiny hill town of Vinci is placed before us, with its widespread poverty. We find out about the career and possessions of his father, a notable lawyer in Florence.

From these newly identified factual beginnings, Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti offer a radical interpretation of the Mona Lisa; we see how the painting metamorphosed into a 'universal picture' that became the prime vehicle for Leonardo's prodigious knowledge of human and natural worlds.

In Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, the meaning of the portrait that resulted from these human circumstances is vividly illuminated through Renaissance love poetry and verses specifically dedicated to Leonardo. We come to understand how Leonardo's sciences of optics, psychology, anatomy and geology are embraced in his poetic science of art. Recent scientific examinations disclose how the painting evolved to assume its present appearance in Leonardo's experimental hands.

Above all, we cut though the suppositions and the myths to show that the portrait is a product of real people in a real place at a real time. This is the book that brings back a sense of reality into the creation of the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. And the actual Mona Lisa, it turns out, is even more astonishing and transcendent than the Mona Lisa of legend.

 

About the author...

Martin Kemp FBA is Emeritus Professor in the History of Art at Trinity College, Oxford University. One of the world's leading authorities on Leonardo da Vinci, he has published extensively on his life and work, including the prize-winning Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man (OUP, 1989 and 2006), Leonardo (OUP, 2004 and 2011), and most recently Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting (OUP, 2017).

Giuseppe Pallanti lives and works in Florence, where he is an Economics teacher. He has a passion for archival research and has been researching the history of the del Giocondo and da Vinci families for many years.