Leonardo’s Val di Chiana Map in the Mona Lisa – Forum

Date: 2112-06-26

Reference number: OPUSeJ 201206262038LVD

Links: to published article: http://digital.utpjournals.com/issue/43517/6#

to pre-reviewed version: http://www.opusej.org/archive/leonardo-da-vinci-incorporated-his-val-di-chiana-map-in-his-mona-lisa-painting/

view as PDF: Leonardo inc VdC ML (PDF)

to cover page: http://www.opusej.org/leonardos-val-di-chiana-map-in-the-mona-lisa-cover/

Title: Leonardo’s Val di Chiana map in the Mona Lisa

Original/ Pre-review title: Leonardo da Vinci incorporated his Val di Chiana map in his Mona Lisa painting 

Author: Pezzutto, Donato

Overview: Mona Lisa/ La Gioconda is analyzed, not as a mystery, but as a marvel of Leonardo’s investigation of cartographic perspective and binocular perception, displayed as a visual pun in the form of a puzzle. The painting was arranged to include two disjointed parts of one landscape as the background. The puzzle is solved by aligning two juxtaposed copies of the painting to reveal a reconstituted landscape that matches a fly-over view of a particular location as depicted by Leonardo in his Val di Chiana map. He developed cartographic perspective to enhance the portrayal of depth in his paintings, investigated binocular perception and stereoscopy, and displayed it all in the form of a pun on the term gioconda, as a prank or puzzle to be solved.

Moderator: Donato Pezzutto


1) Page 151, paragraph 5, line 16 reads;

along the base of the foothills below Cortina to Lake

should read;

along the base of the foothills below Cortona,…

2) Page 155, paragraph 4, line 17 reads;

that, as Leonardo wrote, “one should lose oneself in look-

ing” at the Mona Lisa.

should read;

that “one should lose oneself in look in the Mona Lisa.”


1) After the publication of this article, the Prado Museum of Madrid released the findings of research on the Prado Mona Lisahttp://www.museodelprado.es/en/research/estudios/estudio-de-la-gioconda-del-museo-nacional-del-prado/. Restoration, that removed the dark over-painting, revealed that the Prado copy had been hiding a landscape that matched the Louvre original. Furthermore, analysis of the infrared reflectographs revealed identical details beneath the paint layers of both paintings. Both had similar corrections that were not apparent in the final works. Their conclusion was that a member of Leonardo’s studio produced the Prado panel and that the copy and original were produced at the same time and in parallel.

The existence of a simultaneously-produced contemporaneous copy, lends support to the hypothesis that Leonardo had the Val di Chiana map, the original Mona Lisa and at least one copy of the painting, together in his studio. Thus he had the opportunity to produce the painting as he did, incorporating the map in the landscape and positioning the paintings to investigate stereoscopy.

2) There are two versions of Leonardo’s Val di Chiana map which are part of the Royal Collection of Windsor Castle, UK. In June, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the print room and personally inspect both maps. The smaller, preparatory sketch (RL 12682) can be seen at http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/object.asp?maker=12196&object=912682&row=434while the final, colored version (RL 12278) is illustrated in the article. The former includes a peripheral detail that is not included in the larger, final version in which the periphery may have been cropped. The detail is a line which traces the silhouette of distant hills. It is boldly and deliberately executed in a manner which makes it a prominent feature of the sketch. The most interesting aspect of this line is the distinct and highly unlikely peak it seems to represent. The summit is drawn as an impossibly enormous overhang. In the Mona Lisa, a similarly shaped summit is seen in the distant hills behind the sitter’s right shoulder.

This detail was not appreciated until the actual map was viewed. However, it adds further support to the hypothesis that Leonardo included his Val di Chiana map in the Mona Lisa.


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Citation: Pezzutto, Donato, 2011, “Leonardo’s Val di Chiana Map in the Mona Lisa”, Cartographica 46:3, 149-59. Available at: http://digital.utpjournals.com/issue/43517/6#.

Academic citations forward:

1) Pezzutto, Donato, 2012, “Leonardo’s Landscapes as Maps” OPUSeJ, 2012-10-24, 1-31. http://www.opusej.org/2012/10/24/leonardos-landscapes-as-maps-cover-page/

2) Pezzutto, Donato, 2013, “Raphael’s Gioconda”, OPUSeJ201206262221RAG 2013-06-26,1-22.http://www.opusej.org/raphaels-gioconda-cover/

3)Taylor, D R Fraser, 2013, “Some Recent Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: Applications and Indigenous Mapping: An Introduction”, in Taylor, David Ruxton Fraser, and Tracey Lauriault, eds. Developments in the Theory and Practice of Cybercartography: Applications and Indigenous Mapping. Vol. 5. Elsevier, 11. http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=FYF5AAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Developments+in+the+Theory+and+Practice+of+Cybercartography:+Applications+in+Indigenous+Mapping&ots=HwIUAuytJI&sig=YHg9faS1Z1i0LKhFd1F7ihhzz4k#v=onepage&q=Developments%20in%20the%20Theory%20and%20Practice%20of%20Cybercartography%3A%20Applications%20in%20Indigenous%20Mapping&f=false

4) Zöllner, Frank, 2013, “From the Face to the Aura. Leonardo da Vinci’s Sfumato and the History of Female Portraiture”, in Inventing Faces. Rhetorics of Portraiture between Renaissance and Modernism. ed. Körte, Monika, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 67-83. ISBN: 9783422072534 http://www.gko.uni-leipzig.de/fileadmin/user_upload/kunstgeschichte/pdf/zoellner/Publikationen/unselbst_Publi/From_the_Face_to_Aura.pdf

5) Carbon, CC & Hesslinger, VM, 2014, “On the Nature of the Background Behind Mona Lisa”, Journal of Experimental Psychology. http://www.experimental-psychology.de/ccc/docs/pubs/CarbonHesslinger_MonaLisa-Background-INPRESS.pdf

Other citations forward:

1) Grosvenor, Bendor, 2011, “The Mona Lisa’s mystery solved?” Art History News 2011-09-26.http://www.arthistorynews.com/articles/598_Exclusive__The_Mona_Lisas_mystery_solved.

2) Alberge, Dalya, 2011-10-02, “Move over, Mona Lisa, you’re hiding the view”, Sunday Times(London, England), 22. (ISSN: 0956-1382) http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/157280404?versionId=171456454.

3) Joliveau, Thierry, 2011, “Géomatique, retour vers le futur: explorer les espaces imaginaires”, Conférence francophone ESRI Versailles, 2011 octobre 5-6. slides 28-31.http://www.slideshare.net/joliveau/sig2011.

4) Joliveau, T./ Pezzutto, D. Letters to the Editor, 2012, Cartographica 47:3, 202-6. doi:10.3138/carto.47.3.let1, doi:10.3138/carto.47.3.let2, doi:10.3138/carto.47.3.let3.http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/n36251g24542338w/fulltext.pdf.




Reference number: OPUSeJ 201206262038LVD

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