The way Leonardo painted this portrait deviated from the traditional way women were painted like this in Italy. Renaissance artist showed individuals how they really look. Humanism was a basic concept of the Italian Renaissance, an era following the Middle Ages when the life and achievements of an individual were not reckoned to be important, only his religious beliefs which would prepare him for the next world. Central to humanist ideals was the importance of secular not religious life was stressed.
The humanist ideal asserted the right of a man to make use of his own reason, to read and learn. It stressed his importance as individual in this world, not the next. In line with these ideals, is the choice of a non-religious subject for this painting which is actually that of a young Florentine Noble Woman. She painted not as a stiff figure, as she would have been in the middle Ages but as a real person. Part of humanistic ideals was also the encouragement of study into such things as the human body produced the impression of a real flesh and blood person.
Another humanistic ideal was a striving for harmony and order. This was reflected in the desire to produce beautiful imagery and clear and ordered compositions. In this case he chose a pyramidal composition – with ML’s face and body at its center. This gave the work symmetry and stability – both humanistic ideals. The background recedes in depth. This is known as linear perceptive – a Renaissance innovation- with the point where the lines meet occurring behind Mona Lisa’s head.