Researcher and writer Dolores García documents in her most recent essay, “Valencia and its Silk Art in the Mona Lisa,” that the clothes worn by Lisa Gherardini in the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci came from the Valencian silk guild and its dyes were Spanish, imported from America.
García, author of “The Secret of Mona Lisa” and “The Hidden Face of Da Vinci: The Keys of the Monna Lisa”, began her investigation after asking why Gherardini, the wife of the textile and silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, one of the richest and most influential in Florence, had been portrayed without any jewellery, which identified the social class and the elite of the time.
“Florentine noblewomen were a showcase for wealthy families and wore a type of jewellery in keeping with their social class,” says the researcher in an interview with the EFE news agency.
Gherardini was the wife of the city’s most famous and prosperous merchant who was one of the twelve officials in the Republic of Florence government, with power and important status, so this fact was even more incomprehensible.
During her research, García realised that she was wearing a jewel – her silk dress -, the same one with which the young woman was portrayed eight years before.
“The dress was the true jewel of the family and the one that showed its social rank,” says the researcher, but furthermore, it wasn’t ostentatious, it had no gold or silver embroidery, which led her to believe that its value was in another of her compositions: the dye.
And that was how “pulling the thread”, with all the documentation of the time that she could find about Florence at that time. She learned that the black, eggplant and yellow colours of the clothing were made with a special dye Spain had imported after the discovery of America and that “only the richest families” and European nobility could afford.
Also, it was the Valencian Luis de Santángel who completed the discovery of America in 1492 and introduced the American logwood used to make the dye in Spain, which resulted in somewhat of a revolution in the sector, which the Spanish monarchy had the monopoly on, says García.
The city of Valencia was also the “silk centre of the peninsula” at that time, with the best artisans and dyers. All the silk from the peninsula was sent from Grau port in Valencia to Florence. This was the connection with the merchant Francesco del Giocondo.
“Valencia at that time was on an equal footing with other large European cities. This was when the city built the silk exchange, the cathedral and lent money to the Catholic Kings for the war in Granada,” García said.
The Valencian silk trade, says the researcher, also saved Aragon, Catalonia and Sardinia from ruin. She believes that “we see Valencian silk” in the painting of Mona Lisa as a symbol of wealth, prestige and the high status of the Florentine merchant and his family.
Dolores García’s work has been backed by the Doctor of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, an expert in dyes and professor of Art History at the Faculty of Geography and History of the University of Valencia, María Gómez, who presented the study alongside its author at the university today.
García said the essay will be published shortly so it can be shared with other experts in the work of Leonardo da Vinci and the era.