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C. 1503-1506 Although Leonardo produced a relatively small number of paintings, many of which remained unfinished, he was nevertheless an extraordinarily innovative and influential artist.

The Mona Lisa, Leonardo's most famous work, is as well known for its mastery of technical innovations as for the mysteriousness of its legendary smiling subject. This work is a consummate example of two techniques--sfumato and chiaroscuro--of which Leonardo was one of the first great masters. Sfumato is characterized by subtle, almost infinitesimal transitions between color areas, creating a delicately atmospheric haze or smoky effect; it is especially evident in the delicate gauzy robes worn by the sitter and in her enigmatic smile. Chiaroscuro is the technique of modeling and defining forms through contrasts of light and shadow; the sensitive hands of the sitter are portrayed with a luminous modulation of light and shade, while color contrast is used only sparingly. An especially notable characteristic of Leonardo's paintings is his landscape backgrounds, into which he was among the first to introduce atmospheric perspective.

Live Impressions: The head seems to float above the body. The background has an oily, apocalyptic feel. The farther towards the horizon the more green it appears. Funny expression.