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Comparison of Mona Lisa by Andy Warhol and Leonardo Da Vinci

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    Comparison of Mona Lisa by Andy Warhol and Leonardo Da Vinci with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

    Artworks can be seen as an indicator of time. For instance, in Jane Austen’s book, Sense and Sensibility, the passage “His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle” can be applied to art (Sullivan, 2007). Usually, a lot of artists base their works on how the timely their outputs would be. In the end, their audiences would react to their artworks according to the prevailing notions of the period. The intent of artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Andy Warhol can be looked upon in various perspectives. Both have lived in separate periods, both have different notions of art and both have proven that the principles of doing artwork are guided by the way we look at art itself. The fulfilment therefore in making art can be seen by appreciation the audience had upon seeing the piece regardless of who made the artwork. There may be styles, different brush strokes, as well as various forms of criteria to judge the beauty of art but the ability of art to provoke thought is the most powerful of all.

    In this paper, we will look at the painting Mona Lisa as was depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1506 and Andy Warhol in 1963. The two are different artists who have lived in two separate times living on two different principles in life. The former is a visionary artist of the late 15th century who have excelled in science, art, and viewed technology way beyond his time. On the other hand, the latter was a carefree visionary in his own right who focused more appreciation of what we currently see in our culture as popular and escalating already existing works into a different level. Their respective versions of Mona Lisa are of varying magnitudes. Applying Austen’s literary passage, it can be concluded that the two different versions of Mona Lisa by the two artists serve two different purposes according to the principles in life of Da Vinci and Warhol.

    No one would possibly argue that Leonardo da Vinci’s version of the Mona Lisa is indeed original. For the past 500 years after it was made, the painting which was finished around in 1506 slowly gained popularity. As a matter of fact, during the Mona Lisa’s early days at the Louvre in Paris, the painting has frequently been overshadowed by the various artworks from other artists at the time like Raphael and some Greek masterpieces. But just as we do right now, the mysterious smile on Mona Lisa’s face was the one that made audiences stare and wonder on what could have been the enjoyment Da Vinci had upon completing this artwork or what could have been Leonardo’s principle while he was making this piece of art.

    In finding out the ruling sensibilities in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, several critics have been trying to piece out the painting’s mysteries over the years.  For instance, aside from the fact that the smile on the painting has already been subject of various debates, the absence of facial hair in the painting has also been disputed (Bramly, 2004). This creates the notion about the period in which the Mona Lisa was made. The women at that time consider facial hair (the eyelashes and eyebrows) as unnecessary and were frequently plucked. Add to this the argument that the painting was a caricature of a female Leonardo da Vinci. It has also been disputed if the hair of Mona Lisa actually has a bonnet at her back which cannot be seen easily. We may probably never really know what such things really mean. If Da Vinci was alive though, this could have been his principle. Jane Austen was right in her book. The Mona Lisa as Leonardo da Vinci has envisioned it is a clear manifestation of principle and enjoyment as seen through the eyes of the subjective audience.

    Taking it into account, Andy Warhol’s version of the Mona Lisa in 1963 is a clear appreciation of Da Vinci’s work and highlights the paintings’ influence in pop culture. Warhol has been known in his career as someone who takes ordinary materials that has a large mass appeal to be the subject of his works (Mattern, 2005). The Warhol versions of the Mona Lisa however is a serigraph print involving various copies of the painting in different colours and orientations.  Various critics of Andy Warhol claim that the modern visionary was a copycat with no original work.  They claim that Warhol only degrades the status of the famous painting or even ridiculing it. But Warhol’s principle was proven to be simple in a logical sense. He did not want anything other than to appreciate what he sees and makes it the subject of his artworks. If his audience would grow not to like it, he would care less. By doing the serigraph version of the Mona Lisa, he recognizes the painting as part of popular culture. He sees the status of the painting as not only for art lover who frequent opera houses or for aristocrats. As for Andy Warhol, everything was subjective. His main intention in his version is to appreciate Da Vinci in a different way that he knows very well.

    As what has been discussed earlier, the two different versions of Mona Lisa that was made by Leonardo da Vinci and Andy Warhol were two distinct versions. The Leonardo da Vinci version being the original one made to awe people with the brush strokes as well as to captivate the world with the simplicity of the subject treated with such complexity the world admires up to this date. The Andy Warhol version on the other hand was made to commend the Da Vinci version and to remind the people that Mona Lisa was not just for some limited people who can afford to go to the Louvre in Paris just to view the Mona Lisa but instead, the painting was made for all to appreciate. And this fact may have been one of the things why the painting, although completed half a millennia ago captivates us up to this day. It is because the painting has already been part of modern culture and we ourselves are enjoyed by it. And as Jane Austen puts it, the enjoyment of man is the one that eventually defines our principles. Just like Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile, we may never know why people just can’t get enough of the La Gioconda.


    Bramly, S., & Leonardo. (2004). Mona Lisa : [the enigma]. Paris: Editions Assouline.

    Mattern, J. (2005). Andy Warhol. Edina, MN: Abdo Pub.

    Sullivan, M. C., & Rathke, K. (2007). The Jane Austen handbook : a sensible yet elegant guide to her world. Philadelphia, Pa.: Quirk Books.


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