The story of Leonardo da Vinci’s mystifying portrait is more than it seems.
The Woman’s ambiguous smile and timeless appeal have inspired academic study and artistic emulation for more than decades.
1. Mona Lisa is not her real name.
Mona Lisa translates to “My Lady Lisa.”
Leonardo da Vinci never finished the portrait as he died in 1519, so it was one of his incomplete works.
The woman in the painting is said to be Lisa Gherardini, whose affluent and adoring husband Francesco del Giocondo requested the work in Florence, Italy around 1503. The lesser-known title for the painting is La Gioconda.
2. Mona Lisa’s painting has smaller dimensions.
Mona Lisa‘s impact on culture is extensive, but the oil-on-wood panel painting measures just 30 inches by 21 inches and weighs 18 pounds.
3. Her eyebrows are still debated.
Few theories claim that the subject’s lack of eyebrow may be due to the fashion culture existing then. Few say that is a result of Da Vinci’s unfinished work. All the floating theories were put to rest in 2007 when a scan revealed that Da Vinci had indeed drawn her eyebrows and eyelashes but they faded as time went by due to the restoration process leaving us with the current portrait.
4. Napoleon’s Fascinated the Painting.
The renowned French emperor once had Mona Lisa hanging in his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace for about four years, from 1800. It’s said his attraction with the painting sparked his affection for a pretty Italian named Teresa Guadagni, who was a descendant of Lisa Gherardini.
5. She Has Zealous Followers.
The portrait was put on public display first in the Louvre in 1815, spurring admiration, as a string of “suitors bearing flowers, poems, and passionate notes climbed the grand staircase of the Louvre to gaze into her ‘pure and burning eyes.'”
“Mona Lisa often made men do strange things,” penned R. A. Scotti in Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa, “There were more than one million artworks in the Louvre collection; she alone received her mail. Mona Lisa earned many love letters, and for a time they were so ardent that she was placed under police protection.” Funnily, the painting has its mailbox at the Louvre because of all the love letters it receives.
6. Men have died wanting her.
An artist threw himself from the fourth floor of a Parisian hotel, devising a suicide note that stated: “For years I have grappled desperately with her smile I prefer to die’, in the year 1810.
In 1910, one infatuated admirer came before her painting, only to shoot himself as he looked at her.
7. The MONA LISA is truly priceless.
In the 1960s, the painting went on a tour where it was given an insurance estimate of $100 million. No prizes for guessing how much it might cost now(a few billion).But the policy was never taken out because the premiums were more than the cost of the best security.
8. Mona Lisa seems assaulted.
The painting isn’t all that perfect. On closely inspecting the subject’s left elbow, you might see the damage done by Ugo Ungaza Villegas, a Bolivian who threw a rock at the portrait in 1956. A few months before, another art attacker hurled acid at the painting, which hit the lower section. These attacks incited the bulletproof glass, which in 2009 successfully resisted a ceramic mug flung by an enraged Russian woman who’d been denied French citizenship.
9. The Painting is placed in a bulletproof place.
Mona Lisa hangs in the heart of the Louvre’s Grand Gallery where it is climate-controlled to keep her in the ideal setting. Furthermore, the work is encased in bulletproof glass to deter threats and injury.
10. Pablo Picasso Was a Suspect in the Caper.
Because he’d been caught acquiring looted Louvre pieces before, Pablo Picasso was brought in for interrogation. But the true thief was not caught until 1913.
A man named Vincenzo Peruggia, an employee at Louvre was a proud Italian nationalist who smuggled the painting out under his coverall because he felt it belonged to his and da Vinci’s motherland, not France. Peruggia was busted trying to sell Mona Lisa to a Florence art dealer two years after its alleged theft. However, he did briefly get his wish. Upon her recovery, Mona Lisa traveled to Italy before returning to Paris.
11. France Mourned when she went missing.
The Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre on August 21, 1911. the newspapers at that time retroactively associated the public display of grief to that seen in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Thousands flooded into the Louvre to stare in shock at the blank wall where she once hung and leave flowers, notes, and other remembrances.
12. Mona Lisa’s smile is deceptive.
Is she smiling or not is still a long drawn discussion that fascinated artists and historians.
But in 2000, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Margaret Livingstone said as to why Mona Lisa‘s smile seems to change.
Well, it’s all about where you focus and how your brain interprets at that moment.
13. A Second Painting.
There’s another Mona Lisa painting in Museo del Prado, Madrid.
It is speculated that it was painted by one of Da Vinci’s disciples.
When seen together with the original Mona Lisa, it can form a 3-D effect, making it the first stereoscopic picture in world history.
14. The Heist wasn’t a one-man plan.
Though Peruggia was the only one indicted for the crime, it’s unlikely he acted solo.
At the time of the robbery, Mona Lisa was encased in a heavy wood backing and glass case making it a hefty 200 pounds, making it highly dubious for a single man to pull it from the wall.
Some years later, Marquis of the Vale of Hell admitted to American reporter Karl Decker that he was the true mastermind behind the crime of Mona Lisa.
On the condition of keeping the story secret until his death, he told Peruggia was one of three men he paid for doing the crime.
Whether Marquis was telling the truth or not is still a hotly disputed topic about the robbery.
15. The Mona Lisa has inspired fashion trends.
In the novel Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, by journalist Dianne Hales she writes, “Society women adopted the ‘La Joconde look’, dusting yellow powder on their faces and necks that implies her golden complexion and immobilizing their facial muscles to mimic her smile.
The Mona Lisa is public property and the first mass art figure.