A famous painting in Art History: the Mona Lisa

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29 May 2019

A famous painting in Art History everyone should know: the Monna Lisa

Agathe Guibé

Art has always been a way for humans to express their feelings and record history. From the first tribal cave markings to the Mona Lisa, painting techniques have drastically evolved but the meaning and goal have not.

In a previous article, we discussed why art has almost always been exclusively reserved for "the intellectuals" or artsy people.  
At Artupia, we think that art should be accessible to everyone. Indeed, we strongly believe that you don’t need to a PhD in Art History to converse, love, and collect art and that you should feel free to exchange about it whatever is your background or your level of culture.
This is what inspired us to start a series of articles about famous paintings that everyone should know about!
Whether you want to impress your friends or simply satisfy your curiosity, Artupia is here to help!

Let's start this series with one of the main reasons people from around the world are so tempted to visit the Louvre Museum - The Monna Lisa.


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The Mona Lisa also called the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini or La Joconde, was painted between 1503 and 1519 by the great Leonardo da Vinci and is one of the most renowned pieces of art! The oil painting depicts a woman's portrait with a distant landscape in the background. So why is this painting so famous? The fascination and "hype" around the Mona Lisa can be attributed to two points.

First, her identity has never been proven. Historians speculate she is Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a Florentine merchant, Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. Others believe she was Leonardo da Vinci’s mother whilst some experts have even gone so far to claim it is actually Leonardo's self-portrait!

Secondly, the mysterious faint smile of the woman has been a cause of controversy around this painting. Indeed the lady is smiling slightly which was not something very common at that time and exacerbates, even more, the question of her identity.

Last but not least, her eyes! The female figure looks alarmingly real that it seems she is observing and following you with her eyes! Creepy or not, this optical illusion is one of the reasons behind the painting's success.

From a technical point of view, the Mona Lisa is a fundamental reference for any painters.

Ok great so, this painting is about an anonymous woman who is smiling for no particular reason?

Well… yes! But the real reason why the Mona Lisa became the famous masterpiece we all know about today is due to an external factor.

The portrait of Mona Lisa has been sleeping in French Kings’ castle for more than 300 years until being noticed by Napoleon Bonaparte and finally exposed to the Louvre Museum.
Still, the portrait was hung amongst other renaissance pieces of its time until 1911 when it was stolen (queue dramatic music)! Paris was turned upside down in hopes of finding the heinous culprit. The Parisian Police even had the audacity to accuse the famous painter, Pablo Picasso. The art world was living a scandal! After investigations, the thief turned out to be an Italian carpenter, he was caught in Florence and the Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre Museum. The dramatic tale drastically raised international awareness around the portrait as everyone was eager to see the acclaimed painting that Picasso was suspected of stealing! Tourists crowded in and the Mona Lisa became one of the incontrovertible painting of the art world.

At Artupia, we believe that every painting has the power to impact and move people on multiple levels. Some of us think the Mona Lisa is just a simple portrait of a woman, whilst others acknowledge the painting as an absolute masterpiece and the epitome of Leonardo da Vinci's God-given skills.

However, success does not always have rational explanations; we will never come to know the true identity of the woman known as Mona Lisa, just like we will never understand why da Vinci did not paint any eyebrows on her...

art Art History blog da Vinci famous joconde Mona Lisa painting
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