Jorge Mesa

Jorge Mesa

Dark family history behind Mona Lisa's sad smile revealed in new book

At the age of 15, real-life Lisa Gherardini married Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo – who traded in female slaves shipped in from North Africa, authors say.

Mona Lisa posed with a dark smile because she was married off to a slave trader at just 15, a new book which investigated her family background suggests.

Lisa Gherardini, the real-life model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting, was pushed into a wedding with wealthy Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

He “regularly bought” slave girls and shipped them over from North Africa before he converted them to Christianity, with many working as maids in the del Giocondo household in Florence.

But authors Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti, who researched Ms Gherardini in their book, Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting, believe del Giocondo transported more Moorish women than was needed for this work.

“They could not have all remained in his household,” the authors wrote. “Three were too many and one or all of them would have been sold on.”

They suggest he was likely involved in trading the excess number of women he shipped into Florence before and after he married Ms Gherardini in 1495.

Her marriage to the wealthy merchant spawned a life of riches that was also chequered with scandal.

A story circulated that two men from the wealthy Medici family, of whom del Giocondo was a prominent supporter, made overtures to “tempt the honour” of Ms Gherardini – but she rejected their advances.

Her husband feared for his business and standing in Florence and bolstered his support for the pair. They assured him their relationship sound – but they secretly mocked him for his show of weakness.

Ms Gherardini’s sister Camilla, a nun, also stirred up another scandal when she and another sister were accused of allowing four men to touch them indecently, according to Mr Pallanti and Mr Kemp’s research.

The book states: “On 20 April 1512, four men, armed and carrying a ladder, went to the convent of San Domenico, and having climbed the wall, reached certain small windows, where two nuns were waiting for them...they touched the breasts of said nuns and fondled other parts of their bodies, not to mention other indecencies.”

It adds that two other nuns were supposedly “watching with rapt attention, their eyes filled with similar desire”.

The case went to trial. The men involved were found guilty, but all four nuns were absolved.

After falling ill in her 60s, Ms Gherardini spent her later years in the same convent. She died in obscurity on 14 July 1542. The unfinished masterpiece, "Mona Lisa" - or Madame Lisa - did not turn her into an icon until centuries after she died.

As the years passed, word about the beauty of the painting spread. In 1857, the legendary novelist, poet and critic Théophile Gautier sang its praises in an essay, stating: “You discover that your melancholy arises from the fact that [Mona Lisa], three hundred years ago, greeted your avowal of love with the same mocking smile which she retains even today on her lips.”

Her famous portrait, which is the most valuable painting in the world, hangs behind bullet-proof glass in the Louvre in Paris. Millions of visitors are lured from around the world to see the painting.

“Eighty per cent of the people only want to see the Mona Lisa,” former Louvre director Henri Loyrette told The New York Times. The painting is believed to be worth nearly $800m (£620m).

  • Published in Culture

Secret 13ft Robot inspired by Avatar

Scientists have programmed a monster one-tonne robot that can walk and mimic human movements resembling something from Avatar .

The METHOD-1 machine is four metres tall and when it stomps it leaves the ground “shaking”, according to designer Vitaly Bulgarov.

The giant robot, built in South Korea, works by repeating the actions of its pilot sitting inside by moving its enormous arms and legs up and down.

In astonishing video the sinister machine can be seen walking across a laboratory floor using its mechanical joints.

A control room just big enough for a human operator to squeeze in sits where the robot’s chest should be.

It was created by Seoul-based Korea Future Technology but it is unclear how it will be used.

 The designer modelled his high-tech creation after working on Hollywood blockbusters including Robocop, Transformers 4 and Terminator Genisys.

Vitaly is remaining tight-lipped about the robot, but said it could be used to “solve problems” rather than for evil.

He wrote on Facebook: “I’ll just say for now that from a mechanical/software/hardware/electric engineering stand point it was quite an ambitious project that required developing and enhancing a lot of technologies along the way.

“That growth opens up many real world applications where everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real world problems.”

Communist Poet, Longest-Serving Prisoner of Franco, Dies at 96

Marcos Ana, a lifelong Communist and anti-fascist, and the longest serving prisoner of the Franco regime died on Thursday in Madrid at age 96.

Marcos Ana, born Fernando Macarro Castillo, was a celebrated poet, lifelong Communist, and perhaps best known as the man who spent the most time imprisoned by the fascist regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco regime. Jailed by Franco at the age of 19, he was released 23 years later, in 1961, thanks to an international solidarity campaign led by the likes of Pablo Neruda.

"I am a child of solidarity. It’s not just a beautiful word; it’s an attitude towards injustice, which is still necessary. I owe it my liberty and my life," said Ana.

ANALYSIS: Second Spanish Republic Holds Valuable Lessons

Born to a humble family in Salamanca, Spain in 1920, he left school at 13 to work to support his family and soon joined the young Socialists of Spain rising to become a regional secretary just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. During the war, he joined the Communist Party of Spain and played a key role in the opposition to Franco.

Captured by Franco's forces in 1939, he would spend the next 23 years in jail, surviving two death sentences, torture, and multiple beatings. While in prison, Ana continued his political work. Along with fellow Communists, anarchists and artists he created a clandestine newspaper and offered tutorials to fellow inmates.

It was in prison that he also began writing poems under the pseudonym Marcos Ana, named after his father who was killed by Franco's forces in 1937 as well as his mother who died while he was in prison. The poems, smuggled out by prison guards and comrades who had memorized the lines before being released, were eventually compiled and sent to a printer in Brazil. The publication in Brazil of his first volume of poetry, "Poems From Prison," brought him to the attention of Pablo Neruda, who would go on to spearhead the international campaign for Ana´s release, along with the newly-formed Amnesty International.

RELATED: 40 Years After Franco, People Demand Truth and Justice in Spain

After his release in 1961, Ana continued his activism in exile in France as head of the Center for Information and Solidarity with Spain which included Pablo Picasso as an honorary president. From France as a member of the central committee of Spain's Communist Party, Ana toured the world organizing aid and solidarity campaigns for fellow exiles and opponents of Franco.

In a speech in London in 1962, Ana said, "The only revenge to which I aspire is to see the triumph of the noble ideals of freedom and social justice, for which we have fought and for which thousands of Spanish democrats lost their freedom or their lives."

He returned to Spain in 1976 after the death of Franco and ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Community Party in the 1977 elections.

During his birthdays, he would subtract the 23 years he spent in jail from his age and often remarked that he felt he had been born twice, first on the day of his birth and later when he was finally released from prison on Nov. 17, 1961. In 2007 he published his memoirs "Tell Me What a Tree Looks Like: Memories of Prison and Life," with a foreword by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, and to which Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar acquired the film rights in 2008.

  • Published in Culture

Robert De Niro says he can't punch Donald trump since he's US President now

Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, who had said that he wanted to punch President-elect Donald Trump in the face, has now said that he can't do so since Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States.

"I can't do that now he's president. And I have to respect that position. I just have to see what he's going to do and how he's going to follow through on certain things. And as we even see now in a lot of cities, there's a lot of people getting very upset and protesting," De Niro said on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! show when the host asked if the actor would still punch Trump in the face.

"Are you still going to punch Donald Trump in the face because you could now get arrested for that, I think?" Kimmel had asked the actor.

De Niro, who appeared on the show on Wednesday night to talk about Trump's surprise victory, had earlier released a video in which he called the new president-elect "an idiot, a national disaster, an embarrassment to this country ... this fool, this bozo."

The video, released in October, also led to an argument with Republican supporter Jon Voight who was called "delusional" by De Niro for supporting Trump.

Kimmel asked De Niro whether the effect of the protests was opposite of what was expected or desired: "I'm sure President Obama is speaking from his own personal experience when he didn't get a lot of support and he's saying, 'Hey, we have to ... you know, we're all on the same team.' But occasionally teammates do punch each other in the face."

De Niro replied saying: "Maybe he [Obama] will when he sees him."

The actor also joked that he might have to use his Italian citizenship: "I'll probably have to move there."

  • Published in Culture
Subscribe to this RSS feed