EXCLUSIVE WEBINAR | “Laughter, Lunacy, and Lust in the Renaissance, or, Why is Mona Lisa Smiling?”
Presented by Dr. Laurinda Dixon
with Additional Commentary by Dr. Rocky Ruggiero
The so-called Mona Lisa, Leonardo’s most famous portrait, smiles benignly from her frame, unperturbed by the thousands of viewers who visit her daily in the famous Louvre Museum. Much has been written about this smile – there is even a movie. She seems content, and we certainly hope she was. Everybody seeks happiness, and for hedonists, joy is the very purpose of life. The old adage “laughter is the best medicine” was first put forth by the ancient Greek physician/philosopher Galen, and a good joke really does make us feel better. But if this is true, why do so few Renaissance portraits show people smiling or laughing? There are exceptions; fools, youths, low-lifes and women frequently appear laughing and smiling. However, our modern definition of joy as a spontaneous mental state arising from a serendipitous combination of pleasant circumstances would have seemed alien in the Renaissance. Early modern folk understood emotions as the result of a mechanical interaction of the temperature and humidity of the body, planetary influences, and motions of the soul. As a result, smiling and laughing in public would have been perceived as indecorous at best – even suggestive of lunacy or nymphomania, attributes widely associated with women. Few people said “cheese” when presenting themselves to posterity in a portrait. Even so, there was power in a well-calculated smile, as Leonardo demonstrates. In the Renaissance, smiling was no laughing matter.
The webinar will include a 45-minute lecture followed by 15-minutes of Q&A.
- Your participation is confirmed once you have purchased your ticket. You will receive the Zoom link to join the presentation circa 30 minutes before the start time.
- VIDEO RECORDING of the webinar will be available for unlimited streaming at your convenience for 7 days after the event.