Mona Lisa a Painting by Dicaprio

Mona Lisa Smile & The Painting: Part 2

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The Mona Lisa painting or its topic is not the main focus of the movie Mona Lisa Smile. Instead, it takes place in the 1950s and tells the tale of Katherine Watson, a liberal art history professor from California who accepts a job as a professor at a traditional women’s college in New England.

Mona Lisa Smile refers to a scene in the movie where Julia Roberts’s character, Katherine Watson, an avant-garde art history professor, challenges her students to interpret the well-known work of art. 

She suggests that the subject’s enigmatic smile might be a symbol of a woman who knows more than she is letting on. This is an allegory, and Lisa Gherardini is not shown in the movie, nor is it implied that she was coerced into smiling.

Women struggling to find agency and autonomy in a society that expects them to adhere to conventional gender roles is the film’s main subject, and the title Mona Lisa Smile serves as a metaphor for that struggle.

Katherine’s working for an institution that lives by the traditional roles that were assigned to the ladies, she questions them, and as we proceed we learn she tries to change them slowly and steadily.

The film’s focus on how society expects a lady to be a mother and a wife before anything else is one thing we still struggle with as a society and this makes it a must-watch for us to realize that there is a lot more to be done before we say “Women are privileged enough”


The Significance of the Mona Lisa in Art History


Here we would see why this work of art is adored by artists around the world, the film talks about the same: Different perceptions and we are trying to embrace them.

Mona Lisa Smile's Actor Julia Stiles as Joan Brandwyn
Mona Lisa Smile Poster Featuring Julia Stiles as Joan Brandwyn


The DA VINCI And The Painting :


One of the most well-known and enigmatic pieces of art in the world is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” which has been interpreted and viewed in various ways throughout history.


Various interpretations of the artwork include the following:


Here are a few popular interpretations of the painting: 

  1. It has been interpreted as a representation of the mystique of women, with the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic grin and gaze standing in for a sense of mystery and intrigue.  The background scenery and her slightly turned head heighten the sense of mystery and allude to a world outside the canvas.
  2. The artwork has come under fire from some feminist scholars for being an illustration of the male gaze, in which women are objectified and portrayed for the enjoyment of male viewers.  They contend that by depicting the Mona Lisa as passive and enigmatic, without power or an active part, the painting reinforces gender stereotypes regarding women. The “Mona Lisa” appears to be a portrait of a lady; it is thought to be Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine merchant’s wife.
  3. Da Vinci used a method called sfumato to produce a soft, hazy effect that gives the figure the appearance of almost being alive. The picture is admired for its technical mastery.
  4. The picture is also an example of Renaissance humanism, with the figure’s poised and thoughtful expression signifying a harmony between reason and feeling.  This painting is frequently cited as a representation of the Renaissance ideal of the “universal person,” who is successful and well-rounded in a variety of fields.

The Plot of Mona Lisa Smile


Students looking at the mona lisa painting in shock and some smiling
Katherine and Her Students

In general, Mona Lisa Smile refers to the Mona Lisa painting symbolically to the notion of women’s untapped potential and depth, but it is not focused on the artwork or its topic.

It is possible that the lady was used as a tool to showcase a perfect life or an ideal life.

“Her enigmatic smile. That is the reason we’re all here. The smile is the absence of any reference to history or literature or art or anything outside of her. It’s almost a smirk. It’s like she knows something that we don’t. It’s a very clever painting. It’s very modern, don’t you think?”

The movie Mona Lisa Smile is set in the 1950s and revolves around the lives of female students studying at a traditional women’s college. In a society where women were expected to conform to specific gender roles, the female students struggled to establish their own identities and develop a sense of agency and autonomy.

However, Katherine’s teaching strategies and encouragement of independent thinking were met with hostility from the school’s management and traditionalist faculty members.

Faculty members were antagonistic towards Katherine’s innovative approach, and the students faced opposition from the school’s leadership when they tried to think for themselves, main subject is the struggle of women to find agency and autonomy in a society that expects them to adhere to conventional gender roles.

Through the story of Katherine and her students, the movie highlights the importance of individualism and critical thinking, encouraging viewers to question social norms and expectations.


The Feminist Message of Mona Lisa Smile


Students find out the work station of their teacher, they are holding pictures of flowers painted by them
Students of Katherine with flower paintings


The 1950s was a time when feminists around the world were witnessing the second wave of feminism, making it clear that the so-called gender roles could be challenged and they need to change since then we have made a lot of progress but there is a mile more to walk.

This film captures the same wave brought by a teacher, a teacher who wants her students to think outside the well of a frog, she wants her students to be whatever they want to be and not be sorry about it. A film that points out why school or college institutions treat their female students differently. 


Discrimination Under Your Carpet:


Let’s face it we still face discrimination under the carpet, here are a few examples (which are anecdotal) a school teacher would call a female student before she could call a male student to tell her the following:

  1. “Do not indulge in a relationship”,
  2. “Wear below the knee length skirt”,
  3. “Do not be very loud” whereas a male student will not hear these kinds of comments (not usually). 

Through Katherine’s influence, the female students are empowered to defy societal norms regarding marriage and motherhood and pursue their own goals. The movie highlights the importance of self-discovery and finding one’s own identity, even when it means going against societal expectations.

There could be people expecting loads from you but is it worth your peace of mind?


Also Read: RRR At The Oscars: Joy And Pride For India


According to our Scopo-Meter, we check the following in this movie:

Category Out Of 5

FilmScopes thank the film creators and other participants for making a generation aware that not what you see is right and not what all you think is correct, it’s a matter of perception, “So keep your mind open and free”.

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