If You Like the Mona Lisa, You'll Love Fernando Botero

Botero's balloonist paintings are like a whoopee cushion under the chairs of critics

By Google Arts & Culture

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" or "Mona Lisa", 1503-1519 (1503/1519) by Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre Museum

The Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous of all Western oil paintings, was created by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s. It's an intriguing portrait by the Renaissance master, said to depict the noblewoman Lisa del Giocondo.

There are a number of copies, but the original, and most famous version, is held in the collection of The Louvre, Paris. Today, it is one of the most recognisable images of art in the world. This fame has in turn inspired parodies, pastiches, and homages...

Monalisa (1978) by Fernando BoteroMuseo Botero, Bogotá

In 1978, the Colombian artist Fernando Botero painted his own pastiche of the painting, entitled Monalisa. Though Botero's version is painted in his signature 'Boterismo' style, where figures are exaggerated into inflated balloon-like forms.

Botero's style developed from his studies of Old Masters and a keen sense of humour, but also a certain je ne sais quoi…

"An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it." - Fernando Botero

But this isn't just a cheap visual joke, inflated with a sense of absurdity and pomposity. Perhaps he's saying something about how we treat this artwork...

Botero rejects the typical expectations of beauty and proportion. The Monalisa's plump figure is far from the slender form of Botticelli's Venus, or the toned, athletic musculature of Michelangelo's David. Still, Botero paints her with tenderness, warmth, and delicacy.

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" or "Mona Lisa", 1503-1519 (1503/1519) by Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre Museum

Looking back at the Mona Lisa, you can see the small details that Botero has captured in his own work.

Her thin eyebrows

Monalisa (1978) by Fernando BoteroMuseo Botero, Bogotá

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" or "Mona Lisa", 1503-1519 (1503/1519) by Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre Museum

Her lips pursed in an indifferent, enigmatic smile.

Monalisa (1978) by Fernando BoteroMuseo Botero, Bogotá

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" or "Mona Lisa", 1503-1519 (1503/1519) by Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre Museum

As well as the strange mountainous background, with a horizon that doesn't quite match up...

Monalisa (1978) by Fernando BoteroMuseo Botero, Bogotá

This painting is a joke… but it's a light-hearted one! And one that's taken great skill and talent. It's a joke made at the expense of the perfectionist artist and the snobby connoisseur, and their unreal expectations.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps