In our celebrity-obsessed culture, it is unthinkable that the woman behind the world’s most famous face is still so much a mystery. That mystery of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has long been part of her appeal.
Recent findings have uncovered a few details of the woman in the painting—Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Those few small details inspired author Dianne Hales to pursue the story of the woman behind the paint.
With infectious enthusiasm, Hales takes the reader into archives, libraries, chapels, castles and neighborhoods to reconstruct Lisa’s life in Italy. Hales was granted an Italian knighthood for her work on her book La Bella Lingua; that status opens many doors. Hales does an excellent job reconstructing the world Lisa lived in and exploring some of Italy’s most remarkable history.
This could have been another dry textbook take on Da Vinci and his famous subject, but Hales breathes vivid life into the story. The reader follows Lisa, walking on the same stone pathways, breathing in the same smells, and exploring the same landmarks.
It is a book with a clear purpose to celebrate life and art. Chasing the mystery is often more fun than solving it, and Hales has a lot of fun chasing this mystery.