Director - Robert Hollingworth




Mona Lisa / Leonardo da Vinci

Digitally restored version by Pascal Cotte © Sipa/Shutterstock

Mona Lisa


Claudio Monteverdi – Era l’anima mia (1605)



This most famed of paintings started out in 1503 as the portrait of a bourgeois Florentine woman, Lisa Gheradini, wife of the silk merchant and sharp operator, Francesco del Giocondo.  Over the long period of its gestation it evolved into a ‘universal picture’ into which Leonardo poured his knowledge as a painter. It became a demonstration of the relationship of the body of the woman and the ‘body of the earth’ (with its ‘vene d’acqua’, ‘veins of water’), both living and changeable. It expresses his optical researches into light, shade and colour, and into the progressive blurring of forms.  It manifests his concept of the eye as ‘window of the soul’, which allows us to take in the glories of the visible world, and transmits the sitter’s ‘concetto dell’anima’ (the ‘intention of the soul’) to the viewer.


For a woman to look at the spectator is unusual in portraiture at this time, and to smile is even more radical. The motifs of the beguiling eyes and bewitching lips of the beloved lady consciously emulate the love poetry of Dante, Petrarch and their successors (including Guarini). The divine lady’s eyes and sweet smile inflame our desperate love but she remains eternally beyond the reach of our earthly desires.











Leonardo’s daring in the Mona Lisa is reflected in the visceral emotion of some of Monteverdi’s later a capella madrigals. While other composers puffed and panted in their modernity and increasingly gestural writing (music lagged behind painting in taking risks) Monteverdi embodied emotion through his combination of naturalistic delivery of the text, twisting harmonies to paint the subject’s emotional state, and an unparalleled acoustic awareness of how to lay out the notes to speak with maximum aural effect.





Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci



Digitally restored version of the Mona Lisa by Pascal Cotte in Paris, using very high resolution multi-spectral scans to provide data on the varnish, surface discolouring, and the pigments used by Leonardo. Algorithms are then applied  to restore the colours of the painting in a way that is close as possible to the original effect.  




Mona Lisa / Leonardo da Vinci

Digitally restored version by Pascal Cotte

© Sipa/Shutterstock



Era l'anima mia

già presso a l'ultim'hore

e languia come langue alma che more;

quando anima più bella e più gradita

volse lo sguardo in sì pietoso giro,

che mi mantenne in vita.

Parean dir quei bei lumi,

"Deh, perché ti consumi?

Non m’è sì caro il cor, ond'io respiro,

come se’ tu, cor mio;

se mori, ohimè, non mori tu, mor’io."


    My soul was

    already close to its last hour

    and languished like a dying soul languishes;

    when a soul more fair and more ravishing

    turned to me a look so pitiful,

    that it kept me alive.

    And those lovely lights seemed to say

    “Ah, why are you consumed so?

    This heart that makes me live is not so dear to me,

    as you yourself, my heart;

    If you die, alas, it is not you that die, but I.”


Giovanni Battista Guarini (1538 - 1612) from Rime, 65

I Fagiolini

Credit Matthew Brodie



Anna Crookes - soprano

Eleanor Minney - mezzo-soprano

Clare Wilkinson - mezzo-soprano

Matthew Long - tenor

Greg Skidmore - baritone

Charles Gibbs - bass

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