The 5 things you need to know about Mona Lisa

Created in 1503, it still retains a great deal of mystery. From the identity of its model to its sudden fame in 1911, here are the 5 things to know about Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world!

1/ Mona Lisa is a portrait by Lisa Gherardini

At least, that’s the most likely hypothesis. Indeed, no information left by the painter confirms the identity of the model. It is therefore generally accepted that Mona Lisa represents Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine merchant. The feminized name of this gives La Gioconda , which in French became La Joconde . However, other interpretations exist, making the model a man, or even Leonardo da Vinci himself. The name of the commissioner of the work also remains unknown. However, one thing is certain: he never received the painting! The painter took it with him to France in 1516.

Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

2/ The painting is only 77 cm high

Did you imagine a huge canvas? Surprise ! It measures only 77 cm high and 53 cm wide. These modest dimensions only make the mastery of composition and colors all the more extraordinary. It is the first Italian portrait to frame its model in this way, in the full extent of the upper body. It also offers a perfect example of sfumato , a painterly technique that blends light and shadow to give the illusion of depth. It was Leonardo da Vinci who theorized this technique. Vermeer will also use it in the 17th century.

Visitors in front of Mona Lisa

3/ It was stolen from the Louvre in 1911

On August 21, 1911, a museum guard noticed the disappearance of the painting. Thinking that he has simply been moved, he does not immediately raise the alarm. It was not until the next day that the police were informed of the theft. The case is taking on a national dimension. The culprit is actively sought. Borders are checked, rewards are promised, while visitors crowd in front of the empty space. Followed by newspapers around the world, the case makes Mona Lisaworld famous. It was not until December 1913 that she finally reappeared. The thief was an Italian worker, employed at the Louvre, Vincenzo Perugia. He had decided to recover the painting in the name of Italian patriotism and had kept it in his room ever since. She found her place on January 4, 1914, accompanied by new security measures.

Reconstitution du vol de Mona Lisa

4/ Mona Lisa’s smile is iconic

Soft, barely outlined, like a suspended moment: the Mona Lisa ‘s smile is her most famous detail. Its elusive aspect exerts a total fascination. Besides, is she really smiling? For the American neurologist Margaret Livingstone, this smile would be due to an optical effect. Look the painting in the eyes, you will see her smile; look at his smile, it will seem to have disappeared. This illusion would be due to the play of shadow and light induced by the sfumato . André Malraux, he offered a lighter explanation: “The Mona Lisa smiles because all those who drew mustaches for her are dead. ( The Obsidian Head , 1968). There remains the emotion of having exchanged a few moments with the mysterious Lisa…

Le sourire de Mona Lisa

5/ There are several versions of the Mona Lisa

According to the Mona Lisa Foundation, there is an earlier version of the work, dubbed Isleworth’s Mona Lisa . The authorship of this painting and the similarities with the Louvre version continue to be debated within the scientific community. On the other hand, it is certain that many copies were made. Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils are at the origin of many of them. They are now in museums in Oslo, St. Petersburg, or Madrid. The work was also often diverted. In 1919, surrealist Marcel Duchamps drew a mustache and a goatee for him, creating a new work titled LHOOQ .

Mona Lisa d’Isleworth

These 5 things to know will have allowed you to get to know the Mona Lisa . To go further, you can also listen to the eponymous song dedicated to her by jazzman Nat King Cole, or watch the film Le Sourire de Mona Lisa , with Julia Roberts. Have you had the opportunity to admire it at the Louvre? What memory do you keep?