David Ekserdjian

By Any Other Name

Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names

By Ruth Bernard Yeazell

Princeton University Press 331pp £24.95 order from our bookshop

On 21 April 1525, a notarial act was drawn up to divide the property of Gian Giacomo Caprotti di Oreno, best known to posterity as Salaì. Salaì, who was a particular favourite among the pupils and assistants of Leonardo da Vinci, had met a violent end in his native Milan the previous year. Among the paintings listed in the inventory of his possessions was a ‘Quadro dicto la Joconda dicto la honda’ (‘Painting called the Joconda called the honda’). Self-evidently, this was the picture we call the Mona Lisa, but which Italians and others refer to as the Gioconda, or by variants of that name. 

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