Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait of the Mona Lisa is one of the most recognizable and influential paintings in the world. But how well do you know the painting? Here are 12 facts about the Mona Lisa that you might not yet know.
1. Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci
Kicking off this list of facts about the Mona Lisa is one of its beginning. Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, an Italian man of many trades; a painter, engineer, scientist, architect, draughtsman, theorist, and sculptor.
Mona Lisa is without a doubt his most famous work, but there are quite a few others you may be familiar with. Some of those are the painting titled The Last Supper, the Vitruvian Man (the sketch of the human body with arms and legs wide apart inside a square and a circle), as well as his famous self-portrait.
2. The painting is probably of a noblewoman named Lisa Gherardini
There are a few theories about whom the portrait of Mona Lisa is, the most probable being that the Mona Lisa is based on Lisa del Giocondo (she was a member of the Gherardini family, and married Giocondo).
It was confirmed Leonardo da Vinci was painting Lisa del Giocondo in 1503. However, there isn’t any solid proof this Lisa is the woman in the painting. The Mona Lisa painting was painted around that time.
The other plausible alternative, albeit less likely, is Isabella d’Este.
There are a couple of other theories as well.
3. It is one of the most valuable paintings in the world
It has the highest insurance value of all paintings in the world. Its value was assessed in 1962 at $100 million dollars, which would be, taking inflation into account, closer to a million dollars in 2022.
It is on constant display in the Louvre museum in France, and it is unlikely it would ever be sold… If it were to happen chances are the price would go well beyond its estimated worth. Especially if you take into account that one of the less-known works of Leonardo da Vinci, the painting titled Salvator Mundi was sold for a$450 million in 2017.
4. Mona Lisa has no (visible) eyebrows, but it was painted with them
You might now know this fairly interesting fact about Mona Lisa, but there are no visible eyebrows or eyelashes on the painting. Once you see this, you can’t unsee it.
It was confirmed through scanning and research that they were originally present, but have faded or have been gradually removed in attempts of cleaning and over cleaning the painting.
5. The painting was reworked numerous times
French engineer Pascal Cote, a man who also confirmed the previous existence of Mona Lisa’s eyebrows and eyelashes, confirmed the painting was reworked several times before getting to its iconic look.
Over time as the painting was painted, the changes were made to the size of the face, the direction of Mona Lisa’s gaze, and there were hairpins in her hair and a headdress adorned with pearls.
6. Da Vinci most likely started painting Mona Lisa sometime between 1502-1506
It is difficult to confirm the actual date or year at which the painting was started. The most likely years were 1502-1503. He started working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, believed to be the model, by October 1503, so this would match the timeline.
The museum of Louvre states it was “doubtless painted between 1503 and 1506”.
And some believe this work of art was started years later.
7. For a brief time, the painting was hung in Napoleon’s bedroom
After the French Revolution and just before it was moved to Louvre, the painting spent a brief time in the bedroom of Napoleon in the Tuileries palace in 1821.
8. In 1911 it was stolen from Louvre
While the painting was already appreciated in art circles, regular people still weren’t really familiar with it in 1911. It wasn’t nearly as well protected as it is today. On August 21th in 1911, the painting was stolen from the museum.
Following the incident, an investigation followed, where one of the suspects was Pablo Picasso himself.
The painting was stolen by the Louvre employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, and it would be 2 years before he would be caught when he attempted to sell the painting.
9. The painting is protected by bulletproof glass
At first, there was no protective glass on the painting. But then there came a man who claimed to be in love in the painting and tried to cut it out of the frame with a razor blade.
After that, the painting was protected with regular glass. However, in 1956 a man threw a rock at the painting with such a force that the glass shattered. The damage was luckily minor, with just a small fraction of paint chipped.
Since then, Mona Lisa sits safely behind bulletproof glass.
10. The painting stays the same, but the frames are changed
It had a variety of frames over the years.
11. It is considered the most famous painting in the world
If you started asking random people on the street to name a few famous works of art, chances are all will have Mona Lisa on their list. It is the most well-known painting in the world, and each year over 6 million people visit Louvre to see the painting.
12. There are many “remakes” of the Mona Lisa painting
Last on our list of facts about the Mona Lisa is about copycats. And they aren’t just the modern ones. There are many replicas and reinterpretations of this work. From the time it was painted to today, some even believed to be made by Leonardo da Vinci.
Two notable paintings from the early 16th century are The Isleworth Mona Lisa and the Prado Mona Lisa (which could be the very first replica).