Da Vinci: Mona Lisa

This painting, often considered Leonardo's masterpiece, took him three years to complete. It shows a young married woman who appears rather self-confident, with a hint of a smile. Interestingly, she looks directly at the viewer in defiance of etiquette of the day which said a woman should never look directly at a man. Her hands are poised gracefully, and give her a sense of calm; whereas behind her is a harsh, possibly violent landscape of rocks and water--a stunning contrast. Leonardo's contemporaries were shocked that he had departed from the traditional depiction of woman. There is some argument that the contrasts in the painting represent the clash between fortuna, the forces of nature, symbolized by the turbulent background, and virtu, symbolized by the calmness of the lady.