The Louvre Museum houses one of the most iconic portraits in the history of art, namely the Mona Lisa painting. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the 16th century. This piece of artwork became part of the collection of the French court before being integrated into the exhibits that are currently on display at the Louvre. To gain admission to the Louvre Museum, it is advisable to book your ticket online in advance.
Who was the Mona Lisa in real life?
The renowned oil painting on a poplar wood panel by Leonardo da Vinci, commonly known as the Mona Lisa, is also referred to as the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, in Italian (La Gioconda) and French (La Joconde). The masterpiece holds the distinction of being arguably the world’s most famous work of art. Leonardo created this painting sometime between 1503 and 1519, during his stay in Florence. It has been on display in the Louvre Museum, Paris, where it has continued to be an object of veneration and interest into the 21st century. The painting’s enduring appeal is largely attributed to the elusive identity of the subject and her enigmatic smile, prompting ongoing investigation and fascination among art enthusiasts and scholars alike.
History of The Mona Lisa
Leonardo da Vinci commenced the creation of the Mona Lisa sometime in 1503 and the painting remained in his workshop until his death in 1519. It can be surmised that he sporadically worked on it throughout the years, employing numerous coats of thin oil glazes at different stages. The artwork features minute fissures, commonly known as craquelure, which are noticeable throughout, but more delicate on the hands, signifying the usage of thinner glazes that correspond with his advanced career period.
Leonardo spent the final years of his life in the court of French King Francis I, and after the artist’s passing, the king became the owner of the portrait, thus making it a part of the royal collection. Over the years, the painting remained secluded within the confines of the French palaces until the tumultuous events of the French Revolution (1787-1799), during which the insurgents claimed the royal collection as the property of the people. Following a brief stint adorning Napoleon’s bedroom, the Mona Lisa was eventually installed at the Louvre Museum during the early 19th century.
In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen, resulting in a significant media sensation. The absence of the painting attracted numerous visitors to the Louvre, causing the museum’s director of paintings to resign. Moreover, the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and artist Pablo Picasso were arrested as suspects.
After two years, an art dealer in Florence informed the authorities that a person had attempted to sell him the portrait. Following the tip-off, the police found the painting stowed away in the false bottom of a trunk belonging to Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian immigrant who had worked briefly at the Louvre and had fitted glass on some paintings, including the Mona Lisa.
Peruggia and possibly two other workers had hidden in a closet overnight, taken the portrait from the wall on the morning of August 21, 1911, and quickly fled without arousing suspicion. Subsequently, Peruggia underwent arrest, trial, and imprisonment. In contrast, the Mona Lisa went on a tour of Italy before finally returning triumphantly to France.
The Mona Lisa, considered the most at-risk artwork in the Louvre museum during World War II, was moved to numerous locations throughout the French countryside until peace was established in 1945, at which time it was returned to the museum. In 1963, the painting traveled to the United States, where it was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., attracting an estimated 40,000 visitors per day. The painting also embarked on tours to Tokyo and Moscow in 1974.
The Mona Lisa and its influence
The influence of the Mona Lisa on the Renaissance and subsequent eras has been immense, leading to a significant transformation of contemporary portrait painting. This transformation was brought about through the standardization of the three-quarter pose and by the inspiration provided by Leonardo’s preliminary drawings, which encouraged other artists to engage in more and freer studies for their paintings.
These drawings also played a critical role in spreading knowledge of Leonardo’s Milanese works to the Florentines, while also enhancing his reputation as an artist and thinker. This reputation made it possible for his fellow artists to enjoy a similar freedom of action and thought. Among those influenced by Leonardo’s work was the young Raphael, who sketched his work in progress and adopted the Mona Lisa format for his own portrait paintings, such as in his Portrait of Maddalena Doni (c. 1506).
In 1962, the Mona Lisa set the Guinness World Record for the highest-valued painting insurance, with a value of $100 million, equivalent to $870 million in today’s currency. It is considered one of the most costly paintings in the world, and its worth is most likely even higher due to its irreplaceable status.
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