Leonardo Da Vinci – Research

As I prepare to fine tune my own interpretation of Classical Portraits and shoot my Latino Mona Lisa I felt I needed to explore the work of Leonardo Da Vinci a bit further. Perhaps I need to justify to myself why his work appeals to me and what it is about him as an artist that I resonate with.

I was brought up a Roman Catholic and Da Vinci’s Last Supper was always, of course, the only ‘painting’ we had by the dinner table… quite frankly I always associated with food and not art – yes, shoot me now.

Ok, I admit I have a soft spot for Da Vinci and he is why:

a) He had a brilliant mind. He was an artist, an sculptor, an engineer, a scientist and an inventor. I was lucky enough to see some of the things he worked on, his notebooks, sketches, etc in an exhibition in Rome a couple of hours ago.

b) Initially a well known painter of Al Fresco he moved to Florence circa 1499 (he painted the mural of the Last Supper in a monastery in there). It was whilst living in Florence that Da Vinci painted many portraits, unfortunately his only surviving work is the famous Mona Lisa


On close examination, The Last Supper was meticulously planned and features plenty of semiotics from mathematical symbolism to Judas holding a small bag (no doubt reference to his payment for betraying Jesus). Judas is also the only disciple cast in a shadow. The painting also features plenty of still life ie lace, bread, etc.

c) I saw the Mona Lisa when I visited the Louvre a few years ago and I can honestly say no picture does it justice. The way Da Vinci brought her to life, the way he highlighted in all the right places, his placement of ‘light’ was striking. I almost felt I was looking right into her yes. Sadly, it was covered in a layer of vanish and as it ages its making the colours dull and covering it with a hint of yellow. I hope it can be restored at some point.

As far as technicalities is concerned and according to BBC Science,  Leonardo used a technique known as Sfumato – the blurring of sharp edges by blending colours – to leave the corners of the eyes and the mouth in shadow. It is this technique that makes the Mona Lisa‘s expression ambiguous.

Mona Lisa, oil painting on a poplar wood panel by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–06; in the Louvre, Paris.

The background of the painting has been made to look more hazy, with fewer distinct outlines than the foreground. This technique is known as aerial perspective, and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use it to give his paintings more depth.




The Semiotics of Photography

As part of my research for Project 2 I’m trying to find out more about the Semiotics of Photography. In lame terms (and as i understand it) it relates to the study of meaning. It looks at how we attach meaning to the real world, to words, images and sounds.

Semiotics was invented by Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, who argued that the written and visual language are a system of signs divided into two parts;

A Signifier and Signified.

The Signifier is the form of the message, so in photography it will be an image that we see that is easily recognisable and the Signified is the concept of the signifier and what it represents.


Take this photo of Che Guevara (by Alberto Korda), for example. Arguably one of the most iconic portraits in modern history, it shows Che as a young Cuban revolutionary (Signifier) at a funeral service for the 136 people who were killed when a French ship carrying arms to Havana was sabotaged and blown-up by America. Cuba and US ended diplomatic relations soon after.

However, to many Cubans, Che Guevara’s implacable stare captured in this photo symbolised the struggle of the Cuban people against the US and the anti-capitalism sentiment that followed.

This photo perpetuates Che Guevara as the face of revolution, the opposition to capitalism and imperialism. His beret links him to the common man and his faraway look (some say) is not unlike that in depictions of the Buddha or Christ. In short, it represents the rise of the people against the establishment.

On a less somber note and more up to date ‘photo analysis’ JLo and Drake recently posted in their Instagram account.


According to ‘The Sun’ (pls don’t shoot me!) here’s what the photo means:

“Drake, 30, and Jennifer, 47, went public with their romance this week with a loved-up picture posted on social media.

But Funkmaster Flex claims the date is loaded with significance for the pair – and may suggest Drake was taking a dig at his old rival. There has been bad blood between the pair for years, and they previously clashed at a club in Las Vegas in 2014. Funkmaster Flex is adamant Drake knowingly took a dig at his nemesis over his new romance with Combs‘ ex-girlfriend.

In a series of posts on Twitter, he wrote: “JLo? That’s the get back for a punch in the face? “Took me all day to figure this out!…“Doggy saved the pic for the anniversary and everything!!! Haaaa! Wow! Sensitive new n**** fail!”

It seems that the hidden meanings in photography is more common than we think, which is why my research must continue. I promise there will be no more mentioning of The Sun tho!