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The Mona Lisa: Painting beyond Portraiture

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The Mona Lisa is an extraordinary painting; so much so that the small portrait of a bourgeois Florentine woman has been the subject of many myths and conspiracy theories. But Leonardo da Vinci expert Martin Kemp is keen to emphasise the very ordinary circumstances of the portrait's commission and the sitter's life.

Over the course of his career, Kemp has debunked many of the myths the iconic painting has given rise to and has helped to identify the people instrumental to its creation. But he also argues that the painting became more than 'just a small portrait' for Leonardo: the artist poured all he knew about science and the poetry of painting into the commission. How did this work change the way artists painted portraits for centuries afterwards?

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Martin Kemp (FBA) was trained in Natural Sciences and Art History at Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute, London. His books include The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat and The Human Animal in Western Art and Science.

He has published and broadcast extensively on Leonardo da Vinci, including the prize-winning Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, and the shorter Leonardo, and with Giuseppe Pallanti, Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting. His Christ to Coke: How image Becomes Icon looks at 11 representatives of types of icons across a wide range of public imagery. He wrote regularly for Nature, his essays for which have been published as Visualizations and developed in Seen and Unseen (both Oxford) in which his concept of "structural intuitions" is explored. His recent books include Art in History and Structural Intuitions. Seeing Shapes in Art and Science.

He has been a Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland, The Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum. He has curated and co-curated a series of exhibitions on Leonardo and other themes, including 'Spectacular Bodies' at the Hayward Gallery in London, 'Leonardo da Vinci. Experience, Experiment, Design' at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006 and 'Seduced. Sex and Art from Antiquity to Now', Barbican Art Gallery London, 2007. He has taken part in numerous TV and radio programmes in Europe and America.

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