Mona Lisa
Overview
Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 artist Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

. It is a painting in oil on a poplar
Poplar
Populus is a genus of 25–35 species of deciduous flowering plants in the family Salicaceae, native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. English names variously applied to different species include poplar , aspen, and cottonwood....

 panel
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

, completed circa 1503–1519. Property of the French State
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, it is on permanent display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

.

The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a seated woman, Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo , also known as Lisa Gherardini, Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini and Mona Lisa, was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany in Italy...

, whose facial expression has been frequently described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the subject's expression, the monumentality of the composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 artist Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

. It is a painting in oil on a poplar
Poplar
Populus is a genus of 25–35 species of deciduous flowering plants in the family Salicaceae, native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. English names variously applied to different species include poplar , aspen, and cottonwood....

 panel
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

, completed circa 1503–1519. Property of the French State
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, it is on permanent display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

.

The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a seated woman, Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo , also known as Lisa Gherardini, Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini and Mona Lisa, was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany in Italy...

, whose facial expression has been frequently described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the subject's expression, the monumentality of the composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work. The image is widely recognised, caricatured, and sought out by visitors to the Louvre, and it is considered the most famous painting in the world.

Background

Leonardo Da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy. According to Da Vinci's contemporary, Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

, "...after he had lingered over it four years, left it unfinished...." It is known that such behavior is common in most paintings of Leonardo who, later in his life, regretted "never having completed a single work".

He is thought to have continued to work on Mona Lisa for three years after he moved to France and to have finished it shortly before he died in 1519. Leonardo took the painting from Italy to France in 1516 when King François I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 invited the painter to work at the Clos Lucé
Clos Lucé
Clos Lucé is a mansion in Amboise, France, located 500 metres from the royal Château d'Amboise, to which it is connected by an underground passageway. Built by Étienne le Loup in the middle of the fifteenth century, it was acquired in 1490 by Charles VIII of France for his wife, Anne de Bretagne...

 near the king's castle in Amboise
Château d'Amboise
The royal Château at Amboise is a château located in Amboise, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France.-Origins and royal residence:...

. Most likely through the heirs of Leonardo's assistant Salai, the king bought the painting for 4,000 écu
ECU
ECU may refer to:Automotive terms* Electronic control unit, a generic term for any embedded system that controls one or more of the electrical systems or subsystems in a motor vehicle...

s
and kept it at Château Fontainebleau, where it remained until given to Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

. Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

. After the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, it was moved to the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

. Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 had it moved to his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace
Tuileries Palace
The Tuileries Palace was a royal palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune...

; later it was returned to the Louvre. During the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 (1870–1871) it was moved from the Louvre to the Brest Arsenal
Brest Arsenal
The Brest Arsenal is a collection of naval and military buildings located on the banks of the river Penfeld, in Brest, France...

.

There has been much speculation regarding the painting's model and landscape. For example, that Leonardo probably painted his model faithfully since her beauty is not seen as being among the best, "even when measured by late quattrocento (15th century) or even twenty-first century standards." Some art historians in Eastern art, such as Yukio Yashiro
Yukio Yashiro
was a Japanese academic, art historian, Botticelli scholar and Director of the Institute for Art Research in Tokyo.In 1960, he became the founding director of the Museum of Japanese Art in Nara, Nara...

, also argue that the landscape in the background of the picture was influenced by Chinese paintings; however, this thesis has been contested for lack of clear evidence.

Mona Lisa was not well known until the mid-19th century when artists of the emerging Symbolist
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 movement began to appreciate it, and associated it with their ideas about feminine mystique. Critic Walter Pater
Walter Pater
Walter Horatio Pater was an English essayist, critic of art and literature, and writer of fiction.-Early life:...

, in his 1867 essay on Leonardo, expressed this view by describing the figure in the painting as a kind of mythic embodiment of eternal femininity, who is "older than the rocks among which she sits" and who "has been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave."

Subject and title

Mona Lisa is named for Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo
Lisa del Giocondo , also known as Lisa Gherardini, Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini and Mona Lisa, was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany in Italy...

,
a member of the Gherardini family of Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 and Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting was commissioned for their new home and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea. The sitter's identity was ascertained at the University of Heidelberg in 2005 by a library expert who discovered a 1503 margin note written by Agostino Vespucci
Agostino Vespucci
Agostino Vespucci was a Florentine chancellery official, clerk, and assistant to Niccolò Machiavelli and others. He is most well known for identifying the model of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as Lisa del Giocondo, but is also the author of a number of surviving letters and manuscripts.-Mona...

.

Over the years there have been several alternative views. Some scholars have argued that Lisa del Giocondo was the subject of a different portrait, identifying at least four other paintings as the Mona Lisa referred to by Vasari. Several other individuals have been proposed as the subject of the painting. Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 believed that the famous half-smile was a recovered memory of Leonardo's mother. Other suggestions have been Isabella of Naples
Isabella of Naples
Isabella of Naples was the daughter of King Alphonse II of Naples by his wife, Ippolita Maria Sforza. From 1489 to 1494, she was the Duchess consort of Milan, and from 1499 to 1524 the Duchess of Bari and Princess of Rossano...

, Cecilia Gallerani
Cecilia Gallerani
Cecilia Gallerani , born in Siena, Italy, was the favourite and most celebrated of the many mistresses of Ludovico Sforza, known as Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Milan. She is best known as the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Lady with an Ermine...

, Costanza d'Avalos, Duchess of Francavilla‎, Isabella d'Este
Isabella d'Este
Isabella d'Este was Marchesa of Mantua and one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance as a major cultural and political figure. She was a patron of the arts as well as a leader of fashion, whose innovative style of dressing was copied by women throughout Italy and at the French court...

, Pacifica Brandano or Brandino, Isabela Gualanda, Caterina Sforza
Caterina Sforza
Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forlì was an Italian noblewoman, the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan and Lucrezia Landriani, the wife of the courtier Gian Piero Landriani, a close friend of the Duke...

, and Leonardo himself. Today the consensus of art historians is that the painting depicts Lisa del Giocondo, which has always been the traditional view.

The painting's title stems from a description by Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

 in his biography of Leonardo published in 1550, 31 years after the artist's death. "Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife...." (one version in ). In Italian, ma donna means my lady. This became madonna
Madonna (art)
Images of the Madonna and the Madonna and Child or Virgin and Child are pictorial or sculptured representations of Mary, Mother of Jesus, either alone, or more frequently, with the infant Jesus. These images are central icons of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity where Mary remains...

, and its contraction mona. Mona is thus a polite form of address, similar to Ma’am, Madam, or my lady in English. In modern Italian, the short form of madonna is usually spelled Monna, so the title is sometimes Monna Lisa, rarely in English and more commonly in Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 such as French and Italian.

At his death in 1525, Leonardo's assistant Salai owned the portrait named in his personal papers la Gioconda which had been bequeathed to him by the artist. Italian for jocund, happy or jovial, Gioconda was a nickname for the sitter, a pun on the feminine form of her married name Giocondo and her disposition. In French, the title La Joconde has the same double meaning.

Aesthetics

Leonardo used a pyramid design to place the woman simply and calmly in the space of the painting. Her folded hands form the front corner of the pyramid. Her breast, neck and face glow in the same light that models her hands. The light gives the variety of living surfaces an underlying geometry of spheres and circles. Leonardo referred to a seemingly simple formula for seated female figure: the images of seated Madonna, which were widespread at the time. He effectively modified this formula in order to create the visual impression of distance between the sitter and the observer. The armrest of the chair functions as a dividing element between Mona Lisa and the viewer.

The woman sits markedly upright with her arms folded, which is also a sign of her reserved posture. Only her gaze is fixed on the observer and seems to welcome him to this silent communication. Since the brightly lit face is practically framed with various much darker elements (hair, veil, shadows), the observer's attraction to it is brought to even greater extent. The woman appears alive to an unusual measure, which Leonardo achieved by his new method not to draw the outlines, "mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes" (Gombrich), as firmly as that had been the use, before (sfumato
Sfumato
Sfumato is one of the four canonical painting modes of the Renaissance .The most prominent practitioner of sfumato was Leonardo da Vinci, and his famous painting of the Mona Lisa exhibits the technique. Leonardo da Vinci described sfumato as "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or...

). There is no indication of an intimate dialogue between the woman and the observer as is the case in the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
Baldassare Castiglione
Baldassare Castiglione, count of was an Italian courtier, diplomat, soldier and a prominent Renaissance author.-Biography:Castiglione was born into an illustrious Lombard family at Casatico, near Mantua, where his family had constructed an impressive palazzo...

(Louvre) painted by Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

 about ten years later, and undoubtedly influenced by the work.

The painting was among the first portraits to depict the sitter before an imaginary landscape and Leonardo was one of the first painters to use aerial perspective
Aerial perspective
Aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of an object as it is viewed from a distance. As the distance between an object and a viewer increases, the contrast between the object and its background decreases, and the contrast of any...

. The enigmatic woman is portrayed seated in what appears to be an open loggia
Loggia
Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall...

 with dark pillar bases on either side. Behind her a vast landscape recedes to icy mountains. Winding paths and a distant bridge give only the slightest indications of human presence. The sensuous curves of the woman's hair and clothing are echoed in the undulating imaginary valleys and rivers behind her. The blurred outlines, graceful figure, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and overall feeling of calm are characteristic of Leonardo's style. Owing to the expressive synthesis that Leonardo achieved between sitter and landscape it is arguable whether Mona Lisa should be considered as a traditional portrait, for it represents an ideal rather than a real woman. The sense of overall harmony achieved in the painting—especially apparent in the sitter's faint smile—reflects the idea of a link connecting humanity and nature.

Mona Lisa has no clearly visible eyebrows or eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck these hairs, as they were considered unsightly. In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte announced that his ultra high resolution scans of the painting provide evidence that Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyelashes and with better visible eyebrows, but that these had gradually disappeared over time, perhaps as a result of overcleaning. For modern viewers the nearly-missing eyebrows add to the slightly semi-abstract quality of the face.

Theft and vandalism

The Mona Lisa painting now hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The painting's increasing fame was further emphasized when it was stolen
Art theft
Art theft is usually for the purpose of resale or for ransom . Stolen art is sometimes used by criminals to secure loans.. One must realize that only a small percentage of stolen art is recovered. Estimates range from 5 to 10%. This means that little is known about the scope and characteristics of...

 on 21 August 1911. The next day, Louis Béroud
Louis Béroud
Louis Béroud was a French painter of the late 19th, early 20th century. Some of his painting are visible at the Musée Carnavalet and The Louvre in Paris...

, a painter, walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. However, where the Mona Lisa should have stood, he found four iron pegs. Béroud contacted the section head of the guards, who thought the painting was being photographed for marketing purposes. A few hours later, Béroud checked back with the section head of the museum, and it was confirmed that the Mona Lisa was not with the photographers. The Louvre was closed for an entire week to aid in investigation of the theft.

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, known as Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother....

, who had once called for the Louvre to be "burnt down," came under suspicion; he was arrested and put in jail. Apollinaire tried to implicate his friend Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated.

At the time, the painting was believed to be lost forever, and it was two years before the real thief was discovered. Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia
Vincenzo Peruggia
Vincenzo Peruggia was the man who stole the Mona Lisa.-Theft:In 1911 Vincenzo Peruggia perpetrated what has been described as the greatest art theft of the 20th century. The former Louvre worker hid inside the museum on Sunday, August 20, knowing that the museum would be closed the following day...

 had stolen it by entering the building during regular hours, hiding in a broom closet and walking out with it hidden under his coat after the museum had closed. Peruggia was an Italian patriot who believed Leonardo's painting should be returned to Italy for display in an Italian museum. Peruggia may have also been motivated by a friend who sold copies of the painting, which would skyrocket in value after the theft of the original. After having kept the painting in his apartment for two years, Peruggia grew impatient and was finally caught when he attempted to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

; it was exhibited all over Italy and returned to the Louvre in 1913. Peruggia was hailed for his patriotism in Italy and served six months in jail for the crime.

During World War II, the painting was again removed from the Louvre and taken safely, first to Château d'Amboise, then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey
Loc-Dieu Abbey
Loc-Dieu Abbey is a Cistercian abbey located near Martiel, 9 km west from Villefranche-de-Rouergue, in the department of Aveyron in France....

 and Château de Chambord, then finally to the Ingres Museum
Musée Ingres
The Musée Ingres is located in Montauban, France. It houses a collection of artworks and artifacts related to Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, and works by another famous native of Montauban, Antoine Bourdelle....

 in Montauban
Montauban
Montauban is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is the capital of the department and lies north of Toulouse....

. In 1956, the lower part of the painting was severely damaged when a vandal doused the painting with acid. On 30 December of that same year, a young Bolivian named Ugo Ungaza Villegas damaged the painting by throwing a rock at it. This resulted in the loss of a speck of pigment near the left elbow, which was later painted over.

The use of bulletproof glass
Bulletproof glass
Bulletproof glass is a type of strong but optically transparent material that is particularly resistant to being penetrated when struck by bullets, but is not completely impenetrable. It is usually made from a combination of two or more types of glass, one hard and one soft...

 has shielded the Mona Lisa from more recent attacks. In April 1974, a handicapped woman, upset by the museum's policy for the disabled, sprayed red paint at the painting while it was on display at the Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo National Museum
Established 1872, the , or TNM, is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which includes 87 Japanese National Treasure...

. On 2 August 2009, a Russian woman, distraught over being denied French citizenship, threw a terra cotta mug or teacup, purchased at the museum, at the painting in the Louvre; the vessel shattered against the glass enclosure. In both cases, the painting was undamaged.

Conservation

The Mona Lisa has survived for more than 500 years, and an international commission convened in 1952 noted that "the picture is in a remarkable state of preservation." This is partly due to the result of a variety of conservation treatments the painting has undergone. A detailed analysis in 1933 by Madame de Gironde revealed that earlier restorers had "acted with a great deal of restraint." Nevertheless, applications of varnish
Varnish
Varnish is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a thinner or solvent. Varnish finishes are usually glossy but may be designed to produce satin or semi-gloss...

 made to the painting had darkened even by the end of the 16th century, and an aggressive 1809 cleaning and revarnishing removed some of the uppermost portion of the paint layer, resulting in a washed-out appearance to the face of the figure. Despite the treatments, the Mona Lisa has been well cared for throughout its history, and although the panel's warping caused the curators "some worry", the 2004–05 conservation team was optimistic about the future of the work.

Poplar panel

At some point in its history, the Mona Lisa was removed from its original frame. The unconstrained poplar panel was allowed to warp freely with changes in humidity, and as a result, a crack began to develop near the top of the panel. The crack extends down to the hairline of the figure. In the mid-18th century to early 19th century, someone attempted to stabilize the crack by inlaying two butterfly-shaped walnut braces into the back of the panel to a depth of about 1/3 the thickness of the panel. This work was skillfully executed, and has successfully stabilized the crack. Sometime between 1888 and 1905, or perhaps at some point during the picture's theft, the upper brace fell out. A later restorer glued and lined the resulting socket and crack with cloth. The flexible oak frame (added 1951) and cross braces
Cross Bracing
In construction, cross bracing is a system utilized to reinforce building structures in which diagonal supports intersect."Cross bracing can increase a building’s capability to withstand seismic forces from an earthquake."...

 (1970) help to keep the panel from warping further.

The picture is currently kept under strict, climate-controlled conditions in its bulletproof glass case. The humidity is maintained at 50% ±10%, and the temperature is maintained between 18 and 21 °C. To compensate for fluctuations in relative humidity, the case is supplemented with a bed of silica gel
Silica gel
Silica gel is a granular, vitreous, porous form of silica made synthetically from sodium silicate. Despite its name, silica gel is a solid. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is purified and processed into either granular or beaded form...

 treated to provide 55% relative humidity.

Frame

Because the Mona Lisa's poplar support expands and contracts with changes in humidity, the picture has experienced some warping. In response to warping and swelling experienced during its storage during World War II, and to prepare the picture for an exhibit to honor the anniversary of Leonardo's 500th birthday, the Mona Lisa was fitted in 1951 with a flexible oak frame with beech crosspieces. This flexible frame, which is used in addition to the decorative frame described below, exerts pressure on the panel to keep it from warping further. In 1970, the beech crosspieces were switched to maple after it was found that the beechwood had been infested with insects. In 2004–2005, a conservation and study team replaced the maple crosspieces with sycamore ones, and an additional metal crosspiece was added for scientific measurement of the panel's warp.

The Mona Lisa has had many different decorative frames in its history, owing to changes in taste over the centuries. In 1909, the Comtesse de Béhague gave the portrait its current frame, a Renaissance-era work consistent with the historical period of the Mona Lisa. The edges of the painting have been trimmed at least once in its history to fit the picture into various frames, but no part of the original paint layer has been trimmed.

Cleaning and touch-up

The first and most extensive recorded cleaning, revarnishing, and touch-up of the Mona Lisa was an 1809 wash and revarnishing undertaken by Jean-Marie Hooghstoel, who was responsible for restoration of paintings for the galleries of the Musée Napoléon. The work involved cleaning with spirits, touch-up of colour, and revarnishing the painting. In 1906, Louvre restorer Eugène Denizard performed watercolour retouches on areas of the paint layer disturbed by the crack in the panel. Denizard also retouched the edges of the picture with varnish, to mask areas that had been covered initially by an older frame. In 1913, when the painting was recovered after its theft, Denizard was again called upon to work on the Mona Lisa. Denizard was directed to clean the picture without solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

, and to lightly touch up several scratches to the painting with watercolour. In 1952, the varnish layer over the background in the painting was evened out. After the second 1956 attack, restorer Jean-Gabriel Goulinat was directed to touch up the damage to Mona Lisa's left elbow with watercolour.

In 1977, a new insect infestation was discovered in the back of the panel as a result of crosspieces installed to keep the painting from warping. This was treated on the spot with carbon tetrachloride
Carbon tetrachloride
Carbon tetrachloride, also known by many other names is the organic compound with the formula CCl4. It was formerly widely used in fire extinguishers, as a precursor to refrigerants, and as a cleaning agent...

, and later with an ethylene oxide
Ethylene oxide
Ethylene oxide, also called oxirane, is the organic compound with the formula . It is a cyclic ether. This means that it is composed of two alkyl groups attached to an oxygen atom in a cyclic shape . This colorless flammable gas with a faintly sweet odor is the simplest epoxide, a three-membered...

 treatment. In 1985, the spot was again treated with carbon tetrachloride as a preventive measure.

Display

On 6 April 2005—following a period of curatorial maintenance, recording, and analysis—the painting was moved to a new location within the museum's Salle des États. It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass. The renovation of the gallery where the painting now resides was financed by the Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television
Nippon Television
is a television network based in the Shiodome area of Minato, Tokyo, Japan and is controlled by the Yomiuri Shimbun publishing company. Broadcasting terrestrially across Japan, the network is commonly known as , contracted to , and abbreviated as "NTV" or "AX".-Offices:*The Headquarters : 6-1,...

. About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year. A charcoal and graphite study of the Mona Lisa attributed to Leonardo is in The Hyde Collection
The Hyde Collection
The Hyde Collection is an art museum in the city of Glens Falls in Upstate New York. The collections were endowed by the Hyde family. The museum is housed in a historic refurbished early twentieth-century residence, the Hyde House, located at 161 Warren Street in Glens Falls, New York, a building...

, in Glens Falls, New York
Glens Falls, New York
Glens Falls is a city in Warren County, New York, United States. Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 14,700 at the 2010 census...

.

Fame

Historian Donald Sassoon catalogued the growth of the painting's fame. During the mid-19th century, Théophile Gautier
Théophile Gautier
Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, art critic and literary critic....

 and the Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 poets were able to write about Mona Lisa as a femme fatale
Femme fatale
A femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art...

because Lisa was an ordinary person. Mona Lisa "...was an open text into which one could read what one wanted; probably because she was not a religious image; and, probably, because the literary gazers were mainly men who subjected her to an endless stream of male fantasies." During the 20th century, the painting was stolen, an object for mass reproduction, merchandising, lampooning and speculation, and was reproduced in "300 paintings and 2,000 advertisements". The subject was described as deaf, in mourning, toothless, a "highly-paid tart", various people's lover, a reflection of the artist's neuroses, and a victim of syphilis, infection, paralysis, palsy, cholesterol or a toothache. Scholarly as well as amateur speculation assigned Lisa's name to at least four different paintings and the sitter's identity to at least ten different people.

Visitors generally spend about 15 seconds viewing the Mona Lisa.
Until the 20th century, Mona Lisa was one among many and certainly not the "most famous painting" in the world as it is termed today. Among works in the Louvre, in 1852 its market value was 90,000 francs compared to works by Raphael valued at up to 600,000 francs. In 1878, the Baedeker
Baedeker
Verlag Karl Baedeker is a Germany-based publisher and pioneer in the business of worldwide travel guides. The guides, often referred as simply "Baedekers" , contain important introductions, descriptions of buildings, of museum collections, etc., written by the best specialists, and...

 guide called it "the most celebrated work of Leonardo in the Louvre". Between 1851 and 1880, artists who visited the Louvre copied Mona Lisa roughly half as many times as certain works by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Bartolomé Estéban Murillo
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children...

, Antonio da Correggio
Antonio da Correggio
Antonio Allegri da Correggio , usually known as Correggio, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century...

, Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese
Paolo Veronese was an Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice, famous for paintings such as The Wedding at Cana and The Feast in the House of Levi...

, Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

, Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Jean-Baptiste Greuze was a French painter.-Early life:He was born at Tournus, Saône-et-Loire. He is generally said to have formed his own talent; this is, however, true only in the most limited sense, for at an early age his inclinations, though thwarted by his father, were encouraged by a...

 and Pierre-Paul Prud'hon.

From December 1962 to March 1963, the French government lent it to the United States to be displayed in New York City and Washington, D.C. In 1974, the painting was exhibited in Tokyo and Moscow.

Before the 1962–1963 tour, the painting was assessed, for insurance purposes, as valued at $100 million; the insurance was not bought. Instead more money was spent on security. As an expensive painting, it has only recently been surpassed, in terms of actual price, by three other paintings: the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt completed in 1907. According to press reports it was sold for US$135 million to Ronald Lauder for his Neue Galerie in New York City in June 2006, which made it at that time the most expensive painting for about 4 months...

by Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects...

, which was sold for $135 million, the Woman III
Woman III
Woman III is a painting by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme was a woman...

by Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands....

 sold for $138 million in November 2006, and No. 5, 1948
No. 5, 1948
No. 5, 1948 is a painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. The painting was done on an 8' × 4' sheet of fiberboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance. It was...

by Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Paul Jackson Pollock , known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety. He was regarded as a mostly reclusive artist. He had a volatile personality, and...

 sold for a record $140 million in November 2006. Although these figures are greater than the 1962 figure at which the Mona Lisa was valued, the comparison does not account for the change in prices due to inflation – $100 million in 1962 is approximately $720 million in 2010 when adjusted for inflation using the US Consumer Price Index.

Speculation about the painting

Although the sitter has traditionally been identified as Lisa del Giocondo, a lack of definitive evidence has long fueled alternative theories, including Leonardo's mother Caterina in a distant memory and the possibility that Leonardo used his own likeness. Other aspects of the painting that have been subject to speculation are the original size of the painting, whether it is the original, why it was painted, and various explanations for how the effect of an enigmatic smile was achieved.

In December 2010 Silvano Vinceti reported that the Mona Lisa appears to have tiny letters and numbers in her eyes which are only apparent when viewed with a magnifying glass and shortly afterwards said that the model was his male apprentice Gian Giacomo Caprotti (known as Salid) and that the letters were a clue to his identity. The Louvre, pointing out that he had had no access to the actual painting, said that after "every possible laboratory test possible" in 2004 and 2009 that "no inscriptions, letters or numbers, were discovered during the tests." and that "The ageing of the painting on wood has caused a great number of cracks to appear in the paint, which have caused a number of shapes to appear that have often been subject to over-interpretation".

Legacy

The avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 art world has made note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dada
Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...

ists and Surrealists
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

 often produce modifications and caricature
Caricature
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

s. Already in 1883, Le rire, an image of a Mona Lisa smoking a pipe, by Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), was shown at the "Incoherents
Incoherents
The Incoherents was a short-lived French art movement founded by Parisian writer and publisher Jules Lévy in 1882, which in its satirical irreverence anticipated many of the art techniques and attitudes later associated with avant-garde and anti-art.Lévy coined the phrase "les arts incohérents" as...

" show in Paris. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art...

, one of the most influential modern artists, created L.H.O.O.Q.
L.H.O.O.Q.
L.H.O.O.Q. is a work of art by Marcel Duchamp first conceived in 1919. The work is one of what Duchamp referred to as readymades, or more specifically an assisted ready-made...

, a Mona Lisa parody made by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (literally translated: "she has a hot ass". This is a manner of implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability). This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer
Rhonda Roland Shearer
Rhonda Roland Shearer is an American sculptor, scholar and journalist, who founded the nonprofit organization Art Science Research Laboratory with her late husband Stephen Jay Gould. The mission statement avows that the lab aims to "infuse intellectual rigor and critical thinking in disciplines...

, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modelled on Duchamp's own face.

French artist Jean Metzinger
Jean Metzinger
Jean Metzinger was a French painter.Metzinger was born in Nantes, France. Initially he was influenced by Fauvism and Impressionism, but from 1908 he was associated with Cubism. Metzinger was a member of the Section d'Or group of artists...

, who was influenced by Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves , a short-lived and loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism...

 and Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

, painted Le Goûter ("The Taste", 1911), showing a female nude drinking tea, which is often called the "Mona Lisa of Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

", a movement that the painter was associated with from 1908, and in fact he was influenced by Da Vinci's picture. The influence of the Mona Lisa goes beyond painting, reaching the film composition of The General Line
The General Line
The General Line aka Old and New is a 1929 Soviet film directed by Sergei Eisenstein.The General Line was begun in 1927 as a celebration of the collectivization of agriculture, as championed by old-line Bolshevik Leon Trotsky. Hoping to reach a wide audience, the director forsook his usual...

(1929), by Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

, who said he was also influenced by the Madonna of the Rocks.

Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí
Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

, famous for his surrealist work, painted Self portrait as Mona Lisa in 1954. In 1963 following the painting's visit to the United States, Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andrew Warhola , known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art...

 created serigraph prints of multiple Mona Lisas called Thirty are Better than One, like his works of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

 (Twenty-five Coloured Marilyns, 1962), Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 (1964) and Campbell's soup
Campbell's Soup Cans
Campbell's Soup Cans, which is sometimes referred to as 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, is a work of art produced in 1962 by Andy Warhol. It consists of thirty-two canvases, each measuring in height × in width and each consisting of a painting of a Campbell's Soup can—one of each of the canned soup...

 (1961–1962).

External links

  • The Mona Lisa with Professor Donald Sassoon podcast interview with Donald Sassoon on the La Trobe University
    La Trobe University
    La Trobe University is a multi-campus university in Victoria, Australia. It was established in 1964 by an Act of Parliament to become the third oldest university in the state of Victoria. The main campus of La Trobe is located in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora; two other major campuses are...

    website
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