The Mona Lisa Painting: The Art Shrouded By Undiscovered Stories

The Mona Lisa painting

What’s the first name that comes to mind when you hear the word “famous painting”?

Anyone would say the Mona Lisa painting.

The art piece is popular for its enigmatic features, composition, controversy, and whatnot!

The famous Mona Lisa painting was created by none other than the Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci, who spent nearly two decades completing it. 

Well, it wasn’t supremely famous. In fact, until 1911, it was just a piece of Renaissance art on the wall of the Louvre Museum.

But, in the year 1911, something unexpected happened that changed the future of the Mona Lisa, making it the most famous and expensive artwork in the world. 

The history, compositions, and controversial stories surrounding the Mona Lisa are all worth reading because they reveal a lot about Leonardo Da Vinci and the avant-garde Mona Lisa. 

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Here, we’re going to cover everything about it—be it the Mona Lisa’s size, influence, techniques, versions, and other aspects.

Who Was Leonardo Da Vinci?

a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, the creator of the Mona Lisa painting
Image Source: Wikipedia

Wikipedia says Leonardo Da Vinci was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance and an active contributor in the realms of writing, draftsmanship, engineering, sculpting, and architecture. 

But in reality, he was more than that; he was one of the greatest men the art world had ever been gifted with. 

Leonardo da Vinci was also the brain behind some of the biggest inventions in the world. 

In the history of painting, he identified himself as a legendary Renaissance painter. But his contribution and inventions were remarkable and commendable, and the world of art recognized him as the biggest source of inspiration.

Who Painted Mona Lisa? 

Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, which is the most famous psychological artwork ever produced in the art world and is also a permanent collection of the Louvre Museum

How And When Was The Mona Lisa Painted? 

The Mona Lisa painting was painted between 1503 and 1507. 

But there’s no authentic date when the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci was completed. 

It was said that the artist continued working on the Mona Lisa painting until 1517. He wanted to add more essence or perhaps procrastinate the work due to his arm injuries.

The portrait of the Mona Lisa was painted on a poplar wood panel in the Italian city.   

History

Leonardo Da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1903 in Florence, Italy. However, the Mona Lisa’s owner, the Louvre Museum, continued to deny the fact, saying it had never found concrete evidence of the Mona Lisa’s creation date.

Although its existence is a mystery to date, it was once predominantly the property of the French monarchy.

a picture of Francis I of France
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Mona Lisa painting was once owned by the French Monarch, Francis I, who apparently bought it either from the painter himself or from the heir of Leonardo Da Vinci for 4,000 gold.

From Italy to France, the Mona Lisa painting traveled several times across Europe. 

Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting was once stored in Fontainebleau, then in Versailles in 1695, and lastly in the Louvre Museum in 1706. 

For over two decades, the Louvre Museum housed it, but it went missing twice—once because of the infamous 1911 theft and once during World War II for safety purposes. 

When you read more about the history of the Mona Lisa painting, you’ll take several pauses and wonder about the identity of the woman in the painting. 

The woman was none other than Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy Italian merchant. 

Who commissioned the Mona Lisa painting?

The Mona Lisa painting was commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo, who wanted to have a picture of Lisa del Giocondo (his wife) in his new home. 

In spite of working for nearly two decades, Leonardo da Vinci was never paid, and neither was the Mona Lisa painting delivered to the Gicondo family that commissioned it. 

Composition and Analysis 

When you visit the Louvre museum and view each painting mounted on its walls, you probably won’t find the Mona Lisa artwork special or wow.  In reality, it’s a half-length portrait, and one can barely study its composition through the glasses used for its protection.

The Mona Lisa has the most complex composition displayed in a simplistic manner that only ace artists could see. 

The way Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa Gherardini shows the artist’s admiration for optics and mathematics, as it is said that the painting was the result of his calculations and studies.

The close-up shot of Mona Lisa smile and its background
Image Source: Wikipedia

  

Whether you accept it or not, the Mona Lisa, popularly known as La Joconde in Italy, was art ahead of its time. The Mona Lisa’s features were unusual and uncommon, and hence there were a lot of speculations about its subject, the background, and the creation date. 

It has been decades now, and people are still curious about its compositions, and the hidden secrets behind the smile. 

Speaking of the Mona Lisa’s subject, it resembles several Renaissance depictions of the Virgin Mary, who was the most-picked subject at that point in time. 

The Mona Lisa in Leonardo’s painting was shown in a sitting position in a three quarter length frame rather than a human sized portrait. The Mona Lisa painter, Da Vinci, made the painting in such a way that one would look more closely at its subject than its imaginary background. 

the close-up shot of Mona Lisa folded hands
Image Source: Wikipedia

Her folded hands depicted calm and composure. Such depiction wasn’t common during that time since most of the subjects were painted in stiff and upright postures.

The compilation picture of Portrait of a Lady in Yellow & Ritratto di giovane donna
Image Source: Wikipedia & Wikidata

The Mona Lisa painting passes off mixed emotions. We find it a bit scary after closely observing its background. Those isolated icy mountains were created in a way that showcased the presence of a few or the only human, which was the Mona Lisa. 

The composition was enigmatic and was a result of his newly discovered techniques called sfumato and chiaroscuro.

We’re going to learn more about the Mona Lisa’s dimensions and techniques in the following sections.  

Also Read: About Composition VII

Dimensions 

What is the dimension of the Mona Lisa painting?

The original Mona Lisa painting size is 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 ⅞)  

Techniques 

There are two techniques called sfumato and chiaroscuro used in the Mona Lisa painting.

Can you see the river in the middle ground of the Mona Lisa painting-smoothly  and beautifully blended with the icy mountain in the background?

the close-up shot of icy mountains and a river in the Mona Lisa background
Image Source: Wikipedia

Although we found this composition a bit scary, this was actually a sfumato style, which Da Vinci relied on during the creation of the Mona Lisa painting. 

What is sfumato, or Leonardo’s smoke?

Sfumato is the technique of applying different layers of color to those parts of a canvas that are very close to each other in a way that shows a subtle and smooth transition in colors. 

It’s a blending technique for softening the transition between colors without the interference of lines, external elements, or edges. 

Leonardo was the master of the sfumato technique, which can also be evidently noticed by looking at the shades around Mona Lisa’s eyes. 

Further, to add more depth and mystery to the artwork, he made use of the chiaroscuro technique, which deals with light and dark. But what exactly is chiaroscuro? 

It’s a painting technique to enhance the volume of forms or depicted subjects by using bold and high contrast.

For instance, the Mona Lisa’s smile in the painting is no lesser mystery.

The close-up shot of Mona Lisa eyes 
Image Source: Wikipedia

In order to enhance the composition and also perfect the smile of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci studied the functionality of the muscles and how they are used while smiling. 

His fascination shows how dedicated and experimentative he was and the things he learnt about  just to make the Mona Lisa’s smile the most enigmatic element ever made in the art world.

The Mona Lisa is an enigmatic painting mainly because of its smile, which changes facial expressions every time you look at it. 

Influence

If you ever get a chance to look at it, you’ll find it the most boring and over-hyped artwork of all time. 

But when you read the Mona Lisa painting’s facts, history, and origins, especially its artist’s background, you’ll realize how this six-century-old painting is still relevant in today’s time. 

Why is the Mona Lisa so famous?

The Mona Lisa painting is famous for its techniques, colors, mysterious elements, and theft. 

In further sections, we’ll learn in detail about the Mona Lisa’s theft story, worth, and ownership. 

Vinci’s painting influenced thousands of painters, which resulted in massive numbers of replicas of the Mona Lisa being made and mounted on the walls.

From Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali, every Surrealist artist has created their own version of the Mona Lisa art. 

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Over the last few years. The Mona Lisa became an influential piece of art, and for some people, it was the first classic or first painting that drew them into the realm of art.  

Controversy

There are three major controversies that changed the way people looked at the Mona Lisa painting. 

Actually, the theft turned out to be a blessing for the Mona Lisa, and it attracted a lot of attention across the world.

For the longest time, it was kept in the Louvre museum, and nobody really cared about it. But when the museum was robbed and the painting disappeared, that’s when it got into the limelight, and gradually the price of the Mona Lisa painting began skyrocketing. 

Also Read: 10 Controversial Artworks 

1. Mona Lisa Painting Stolen – The Story (1911)

a picture of French people with Mona Lisa painting in 1913
Image Source: A picture from Roger-Viollet, Getty Images, Creative Common License

The impact that had on the Mona Lisa painting was huge. 

The Mona Lisa painting, which is worth billions of dollars today, was once just an ordinary piece from the Louvre.

However, the night of August 21, 1911, changed the destiny of the Mona Lisa painting and made it one of the most remarkable paintings ever produced in the history of art.

a half length picture of Peruggia, the thief of Mona Lisa 
Image Source: Art news, a picture from Virgil Films

In the name of patriotism, one of the Louvre workers stole the Mona Lisa and kept it in a trunk for nearly two years. Later, he traveled to his country, Italy, and met several art dealers. 

Over the course of time, investigators interrogated several staff members and a cubist artist, Pablo Picasso, who was also a suspect in one of the thefts that happened lately. 

It didn’t lead to anything and resulted in shock and angst throughout the entire world. As time went on, media coverage, protests, and pressure from authorities peaked, and people began to show interest in the Mona Lisa painting. 

After being away for over 28 months, Leonardo’s masterpiece returned to the Louvre, and with each passing month, it became a household name throughout Europe.

2. Mona Lisa 1974 Vandalism

The Mona Lisa painting
Image Source: Art News

Nobody ever thought that the Paris Museum would let the Mona Lisa be displayed at the National Museum of Japan.

The Mona Lisa painting has rarely left the art museum, and after ages, when it traveled to Japan, it received some backlash from a physically disabled woman named Tomoko Yonezu.

She sprayed red paint onto Leonardo’s canvas as an act of her disagreement and unhappiness over the museum’s views on the physically challenged.

The art abuser didn’t like the way the National Museum dealt with the arrangements for disabled people, which was a growing concern in the town.

A few droplets of red paint were even staining the canvas. The painting was spared, though, and the art abuser was immediately taken into custody and called before the courts. Later, she faced serious consequences.

There were protests held outside the courthouse, and some even perceived it as sexism in legal proceedings. 

This resurrected the attention on the Mona Lisa that had dropped after  World War II.

3. Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting 

the cover photo of The People and the Painting and the pictures of its authors
Image Source: Google Books & Amazon

The enigmatic smile behind Lisa Gheradini was always a mystery, but a recently published book cleared some air and perhaps gave us the real story and details about the Mona Lisa family. 

The book suggests that Lisa Gheradini was forcefully married to the wealthy Florentine slave trader, Francesco, who would sell African women from all over North America.

Lisa was just 15 years old when she got married to Francesco, who had contact with two prominent names from the Medici family.

The authors, Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti, said that her husband would enslave dozens of women who would do chores in his house.

He would baptize them and sell them to rich families. However, his interactions with Lisa were opposite and fairly good, which resulted in him marrying her. 

As she experienced a lot from a very young age, it’s apparently believed that the smile displayed in the painting was her pain and disparity, which tore her life apart.

Value

First of all, the Mona Lisa painting is not for sale. 

The Louvre museum will never put it on auction due to some laws, and because it’s so expensive, nobody will ever buy it or spend millions on its maintenance. 

However, they may auction or sell the Mona Lisa painting to save the country from debt if they ever experience it. 

How much is the Mona Lisa painting worth? 

The Mona Lisa painting is worth over $700 million, as it was once offered insurance worth $100 million in 1962–63. 

There are several reasons why the Mona Lisa painting is not on sale. The first reason is that the Mona Lisa painting’s value is unimaginably high, and nobody will ever think of owning it. It also requires a hell of a lot of money for its protection and after-care

The second reason is that the Louvre Museum generates a significant amount of money from the Mona Lisa, as most people visit it primarily to see Da Vinci’s artwork. 

Although it’s a steady income source for the Louvre, it’ll bring in more money in the long run than a single payment. 

The Mona Lisa portrait is irreplaceable, and the Louvre Museum has not officially purchased insurance worth hundreds of millions.

Ownership

For a very long time, the French people and their government owned the Mona Lisa. Even the French monarch, Napoleon Bonaparte, owned it for a brief period of time and kept it in his bedroom.

We all know who the real owner of the Mona Lisa painting is—Leonardo da Vinci. Francesco, a wealthy trader from Florence, had commissioned Da Vinci, but due to delays and the artist’s passing, Francesco never received it. 

As time went on, the Louvre Museum came into the picture and took possession of the Mona Lisa painting. 

a long shot of Louvre Museum
Image Source: Britannica

Over the centuries, it owned the artwork until 1911, when the Mona Lisa painting was stolen for the first time in its history. The French government retrieved it from Italy within two years, and it has since been primarily owned by the Paris Museum. 

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During World War II, Nazis looted several artworks, but they failed to plunder the Mona Lisa painting, which was in an unknown place.

Post World War II, it traveled across various parts and finally came back to the Louvre Museum, which became its permanent home.  

Where is the Mona Lisa painting located? 

As you already know, the Mona Lisa is housed and owned by the Louvre Museum, Paris. The Mona Lisa painting is located in the Paris Museum’s largest room, the Salle des États. 

Versions

There are several versions of the Mona Lisa painting, but Mona Lisa (Prado) and Isleworth are the most popular copies of it. 

Most of the other copies of the Mona Lisa paintings were made in Da Vinci’s studios with the assistance of his pupils, fellow artists, collaborators, and veterans. 

These Mona Lisa paintings’ copies were never heard of, seen, or located, and the ones that were found acquired significant attention for their uniqueness. 

Let’s learn more about these two versions of the Mona Lisa artwork: 

A. Prado Museum La Gioconda

a portrait of Prado Museum La Gioconda
Image Source: Wikipedia

The composition and subject matter are common in all the paintings, including this one. Since 1819, the Mona Lisa (Prado) has been in the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.

It’s commonly known as the earliest version of the Mona Lisa and was said to have been created by either Francesco Melzi or Salaì, the pupils of Leonardo da Vinci, in the same studio where the Mona Lisa was made. 

It is said to have the most historical value and was once hung in the Prado along with the works of the prominent Italian painter Raphael.

B. Isleworth Mona Lisa

a portrait of Isleworth Mona Lisa
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Isleworth Mona Lisa is another example of Da Vinci’s artwork. Hugh Blaker, an English collector, first acquired it from a Somerset manor house.

Having the same subject, Isleworth, shows the younger version of Lisa del Giocondo. 

The Mona Lisa replica was created by the artist himself, not by one of his students.

And it has more beautiful and serene features than the original Mona Lisa painting from the Louvre.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa was a fairly well-received artwork, and the ones who doubted its creators were a bunch of artists and Martin Kemp, who recently revealed the true story and background of Lisa Gherardini in his book Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting.

The oil on canvas painting, Isleworth Mona Lisa, is currently in a private collection in Switzerland. 

Conclusion

The Mona Lisa painting is a timeless masterpiece that also acts as an asset to the Louvre Museum.

Enigmatic composition and background make it one of the most-talked about, viewed, and written about pieces of today’s times. 

There’s always some controversy associated with the Mona Lisa, be it theft, damage, or protest. There was a time when Mona Lisa art was constantly under attack by art abusers and Nazis. 

However, French people, art connoisseurs, and owners didn’t bow down but protected it over the years.

Looking at the Mona Lisa’s painting and composition, we can say that there will never be another artist as talented and brilliant as Leonardo da Vinci. 

The Mona Lisa painting exemplifies the artist’s effort, patience, skills, and love for art. Hence, the Mona Lisa stands strong as the most expensive and renowned art piece ever made.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who created the famous Mona Lisa painting?

Leonardo Da Vinci was the creator of the Mona Lisa painting.

When was the Mona Lisa painting created?

The Mona Lisa painting was painted between 1503 and 1507.

Who was the first owner of the Mona Lisa painting?

The French Monarch, Francis I, was the first owner of the Mona Lisa painting, as it was reportedly said that the king bought it either from the painter himself or from the heir of Leonardo Da Vinci for 4,000 gold.

Who commissioned the Mona Lisa painting?

The Mona Lisa painting was commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo, who wanted to have a picture of Lisa del Giocondo (his wife) in his new home. 

What is the dimension of the Mona Lisa painting?

The original Mona Lisa painting size is 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 ⅞).

What techniques did Leonardo Da Vinci use to create the Mona Lisa painting?

Da Vinci used two techniques called sfumato and chiaroscuro to create the enigmatic Mona Lisa painting.

What were three controversies around the Mona Lisa painting?

The infamous Mona Lisa stolen story (1911), the 1974 Vandalism, and the release of the book “Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting”, which revealed some shocking facts about the art.

What are the two versions of the Mona Lisa painting?

Prado Museum La Gioconda and Isleworth Mona Lisa are the two prominent versions of the Mona Lisa painting

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