The story of Mona Lisa as it was never told to you.
By Ruth Quiroga
March 19th, 2021
Mona Lisa is probably the world’s most famous painting ever. It was painted at the beginning of the 16th century, when Leonardo Da Vinci was living in Florence. He took it to France and it became part of the court’s collections. In 1797, it arrived at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Then, it spent some time in Napoleon’s room, and a few years later, it returned to the museum. It has not been moved from there since then, except when it was stolen.
This last fact caused an immediate media sensation. People went to the Louvre to view the empty space where the painting had once hung. In 1913, an art dealer in Florence alerted local authorities that a man had tried to sell him the painting. Police found it in the false bottom of a trunk belonging to an Italian immigrant who had worked at the Louvre fitting glass on a selection of paintings. Most likely, he and two other workers had hidden in a closet overnight, taken it from the wall the next morning and ran off without suspicion.
This work of art was commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo as a present for his wife Lisa Gherardini, which is why they also called it the Mona Lisa. There has been much speculation and debate regarding the identity of the Mona Lisa’s sitter. Some theories claim that the model was totally unknown by Leonardo Da Vinci. Others say that it was a portrait of himself, but dressed as a woman given the resemblance between the sitter’s and the artist’s facial features.
It is even speculated that the model may have been Leonardo’s mother. Another interesting fact is that the position held by the Mona Lisa was typical of a pregnant woman. In fact, the gauze veil or the garment she wears, typical of a pregnant woman for that time, leads us to think that she had even just given birth.
Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between the years 1504 and 1519. He would have done it in 2 months, but we are talking about a very busy person with an incredible talent, so it took him much longer. If we look closely at the painting (in order to appreciate the details) we will find out the woman has neither eyebrows or eyelashes: is this the style of the painter or an oversight of himself? Besides, what is the mystery behind Mona Lisa’s smile? Is she really happy? Throughout time, no one could say what her mood was. Leonardo Da Vinci was able to portray that expression through the sfumato technique. In 2005, thanks to an emotion recognition software from the University of Amsterdam, it was possible to recognize what the author tried to instill: it presented 2% anger, 6% fear, 9% dislike and 83% happiness.
An amazing fact is that this masterpiece (which has not been restored in over 500 years) is truly priceless and cannot be bought or sold according to French heritage law. Besides, not one person would be able to purchase and maintain the painting. As part of the Louvre collection, Mona Lisa belongs to the public, and by popular agreement, their hearts belong to her.