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Where's the Rhythm in the Mona Lisa Painting?

By August 31, 2013

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One of the questions that has arisen in a forum discussion about rhythm in a composition is where this is to be found in the Mona Lisa. Renzo says:
"In sound, Rhythm is marked by orderly repetition of a beat that moves the music forward in time. When you think of rhythm in visual and spatial terms, it is not difficult to see it expressed in paintings that have a clear left to right horizontal composition. ... You can even see it when the pattern is vertical. But where is the Rhythm in the Mona Lisa?"
I see it in the gentle curves cascading down the composition. But it's a very gentle rhythm, not a strong, foot-tapping beat. Do you see any? Join the conversation here...


August 31, 2013 at 4:56 am
(1) Yover says:

I think Renzo is right. But into what kind of paintings do we find rhythm? (I do not pretend to be exhaustive)
- Landscapes, seascapes of course
- Still life
- At least with two figures in a same painting
- In chiaroscuro paintings: violent lights and shadows give the tempo (El Caravaggio, Rembrandt…)
- In paintings when dashes are preeminent (Fauvism for instance)
- In paintings when outlines are heightened by visible colored lines (Cezanne, Gauguin, etc.)
- Abstract paintings
- Female nude paintings: here no explanation is useful…
Rhythm is often related to decorative patterns. So does Mona Lisa need decorative patterns? Her delightful smile and impish eyes are both enough and necessary.
But If I want to see therefore a rhythm in this painting, I would say the famous blurred outline of the left side starting to the horizontal part of the forehead just under the hair until the end of the horizontal plunging neckline opposed to the right side, straighter, and leading to the hands light.. Opposition reinforces feelings of rhythm.

August 31, 2013 at 6:30 am
(2) Yover says:

Yover again.
If we make a vertical flip of the painting, we can see all of a sudden that the small undulating path echoes the undulating necklace: we start by the inversed curved shadow of the chin then we follow till the end of the necklace outline on the right. The same phenomenon appears with the undulating dried river under the bridge, across Mona.
” E nient’ altro?…” says Leonardo, with a chuckle…
Oh my gosh! You are too subtle for me, Sir Leonardo! You drive me crazy, with all due respect!

August 31, 2013 at 8:05 am
(3) Yover says:

I am okay now.
When I turn in black and white the painting, what do I observe?
An equivalence of a series of undulating cascades of light seen from above, building a vertical sine curve (the rhythm):
- The spring: parting of the hair
- Then first cascade, face
- Then a hollow (neck)
- Then the second cascade: the haunting and sloping necklace, followed by the streaming of the cloth towards
- The third cascade: forking hands.
This explains why I always have had the feeling the face hid a real waterfall in the distance. Here our mind creates the link between material and virtual presences. Subtle resonance!
Leonardo, suddenly speaking in English, whispered: “I am not sure where it is all coming from! Poor guy! As for me, I have just painted a beautiful lady!”

September 1, 2013 at 5:34 am
(4) Yover says:

Wonderful rhythms everywhere, a delightful scene for the eyes:


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