Oh yes, she’s quite the laugh riot.

Reader Elle writes:

I’ve heard it said that Joconde cake gets its name from the Mona Lisa, but if that’s true…how?

That’s an interesting story, Elle. It may or may not be true, but that won’t stop me from telling it. It goes like this: the portrait of the Mona Lisa was commissioned by a fellow by the name of Francesco di Bartholommeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, a wealthy silk merchant who had way too many names, but who nevertheless lived in Florence around the turn of the Sixteenth Century. He commissioned the painting — a portrait of his wife, a commoner by the name of Lisa Gherardini — to commemorate the birth of their second son, Andrea.

The artist, one Leonardo da Vinci, accepted the commission and spent some four years working on and/or fiddling with it. In the end da Vinci became so attached to the painting that he never delivered it and ultimately took it with him to France when he moved there around 1515. He sold it to the King of France and it’s been property of the French government ever since.

But now where was I? Oh yes, the name thing. It just so happens that the surname of the man who originally commissioned the painting, Giocondo, is very similar to another Italian word, gioconda which means “cheerful” or “merry” (like the English word “jocund” or “jocular”). Thus the name of the Mona Lisa is, I’m told, something of a pun there: la Giocanda, the merry one, sort of a joke on that famous half-smile of hers. The French are said to refer to the painting in the same way, only using their equivalent word, joconde.

Assuming again that all this is true, how did the word get to be applied to an almond sponge cake? That’s a lot less clear, but that’s the story as far as I know it!

7 thoughts on “Oh yes, she’s quite the laugh riot.”

  1. Ya… laugh riot, I’ll bet. Probably wasn’t very funny for Leo when he first showed her the portrait, though. Leo completely forgot to retouch that ginormous facelift scar. Or was that a hair transplant gone wrong?

  2. Oh, I read that this was a self-portrait of Leo in drag. Surely a story that good couldn’t possible be wrong could it?

    BTW – still owe you photos of an attempt to brown white chocolate but I went on vacation & have not mentally returned.

    1. Dude looks like a lady, eh? Well he had a very womanly chin if that’s true.

      – J

  3. Not just said to refer to it as La Jaconde, if you go to the Louvre, there are signs all over the place pointing to the three art works every “has” to take a picture of, the Venus de Milo, Nike de Samothrace (a.k.a. Winged Victory), and La Jaconde (a.k.a the Mona Lisa)

      1. My Mom will be glad my studying art history in Paris has paid off so handsomely 🙂

        1. I love art history! And tell her yes, the expense was well worth it! Cheers,

          – Joe

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