In Mona Lisa’s smile, US historian sees a feminist

Updated 23 April 2014

In Mona Lisa’s smile, US historian sees a feminist

WASHINGTON: It’s taken him 12 years, but an amateur art historian from Texas reckons he’s solved the mystery of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, five centuries after it was immortalized by Leonardo da Vinci.
In a just-published book, “The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Secrets of the Mona Lisa,” William Varvel argues that La Gioconda was a 16th-century feminist who favored a greater role for women in the Catholic church.
“La Gioconda was trying to get people to see that the New Jerusalem would be here as soon as you recognize women’s theological rights,” Varvel, 53, a former mathematics professor, told AFP in a telephone interview.
“La Gioconda may be a grand statement for women’s rights,” he added.
His theory joins many others — some serious, others fanciful — surrounding what is perhaps the world’s most famous painting, which draws legions of tourists every day to the Louvre museum in Paris.
History remembers the Mona Lisa as Lisa del Giocondo, a mother of five born into an aristocratic Florentine family whose husband, a cloth and silk merchant, commissioned the portrait.
Da Vinci, who had already painted The Last Supper for a Dominican convent, toiled on the oil-on-poplar painting from 1503 to 1506 and perhaps several years after.
In his 180-page book that’s not always an easy read, Varvel explains that, in the course of his career, Da Vinci had painted “each and every verse” of the final chapter of the Old Testament’s book of Zechariah, which anticipates the rise of an ideal society within a New Jerusalem.
Fascination with the Mona Lisa endures: over the years, some viewers claim to have sensed mysterious signs in her eyes, her voice has been reconstructed by Japanese enthusiasts, and a doctor once diagnosed her as having an excess of cholesterol.
“It’s even been said that she’s a man, even the portrait of Leonardo da Vinci himself,” art historian Laure Fagnart told AFP.
“In my mind, there’s nothing that’s really hidden from us,” added Fagnart, a specialist in Renaissance art at the University of Liege in Belgium who has not read Varvel’s book.
“This is the portrait of a bourgeois woman like dozens of others from that time, albeit perhaps more difficult to read than other works,” she said.
“Da Vinci was an artist who put thought into his painting, he did nothing in an innocent fashion.”
For all the years he’s committed to studying the Mona Lisa, Varvel has never actually seen it up close.
“I’m not going to fight the crowd to see La Gioconda,” he said. “If I go to Paris, the Louvre is going to give me a private showing — and if they don’t, I won’t go.”


Egyptian DJ Raveland makes melting-pot music from the UAE

DJ Raveland was raised in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
Updated 19 August 2019

Egyptian DJ Raveland makes melting-pot music from the UAE

DUBAI: The Egyptian music producer and DJ who goes by the name Raveland has surprised his fans with a new hit this summer. 

Raveland hosts concerts around the UAE. (Supplied)

Honoring the Swedish musician Avicii, who died in Oman last year, “My Way” is an old-school house music track. “Avicii was one of my idols. Nothing will top his productions, but I wanted to bring back this vibe to the industry,” the artist told Arab News. 

“‘My Way’ is different from everything I have done before. It is calm, and focuses more on the vocals and the melody,” he added. 

The musician, who is signed with Universal Music MENA, was able to build a large fan base with tracks and mix tapes reaching more than 100,000 streams and downloads internationally. 

The DJ’s ambitions pushed him to release a music video for his track “Rêve” on Vevo that featured one of his events in Abu Dhabi with fans enjoying his various music genres.

Raised in Abu Dhabi, Raveland has been touring around the UAE to perform his tracks, including “Resolution 19,” “Dreamville” and “Way to Tomorrowland.”

In June, he released an extended play – a short album featuring four tracks – called “28.” From trance to romantic, “28” had it all. 

Raveland released his recent album "28" this summer. (Supplied)

Under the big umbrella of electronic dance music, Raveland’s productions bring different cultures together. One of his “28” tracks, “Auaha,” is inspired by New Zealand’s old tribes. “My passion for music is endless. I am constantly trying to explore more genres and more types of music to target a larger audience.” 

Raveland has previously collaborated with musicians such as the UAE-based DJ XABB and the Tunisian DJ Eyjey. Exclusively to Arab News, Raveland announced that he is working on a piece that follows the Latino genre reggaeton, like the famous “Despacito” hit, in collaboration with a Puerto Rican singer. 

The DJ also promised to bring back his online radio show, called “We Are Ravelands,” which has been on hiatus for a few months. “I will bring it back, real strong,” the host said. “The show will feature a lot of collaborations from all around the world, like Egypt, Spain and the US.”