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Mona Lisa is the world's most famous painting, it is immediately recognized by most people at a glance.
Leonardo da Vinci
oil on poplar, 77 × 53 cm
Musée du Louvre
The Mona Lisa (Italian, Spanish: La Gioconda; French: La Joconde), is an oil painting on poplar wood by the famous Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. The world's most famous painting is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
The painting (also less commonly spelled Monna Lisa) shows a woman looking out at the viewer with what is often described as an "enigmatic smile". The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous piece in art history; few other works of art are as romanticized, celebrated, or reproduced.
Leonardo gave no known title to the painting. The title Mona Lisa stems from the Giorgio Vasari biography of Leonardo, published 31 years after Leonardo's death. In it he identified the sitter as Lisa, the wife of wealthy Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo. "Mona" is a common Italian contraction of "madonna", meaning "my lady", so the title means "Lady Lisa".
The alternative title La Gioconda is the feminine form of Giocondo. In Italian giocondo means 'light-hearted' ('jocund' in English), so "gioconda" means "light hearted woman". Because of her smile, this version of the title plays on this double-meaning, as in the French "La Joconde".
Both Mona Lisa and La Gioconda became established as titles for the famous painting in the 19th century. Before these names became established, the painting had been referred to by various descriptive phrases, such as "a certain Florentine lady" and "a courtesan in a gauze veil."
Leonardo began the Mona Lisa in 1503 and completed it three or four years later.
The painting was brought from Italy to France by Leonardo in 1516 when King François I invited the great painter to work at the Clos Lucé near the king's chateau in Amboise. The King bought the painting for 4,000 écus.
At some point after Leonardo's death the painting was cut down by having part of the panel at both sides removed. Originally there were two columns on either side of the figure, as we know from early copies. The edges of the bases can still be seen.
The famous painting first resided in Fontainebleau, later in the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre. Napoleon I had it moved to his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace; later it was returned to the Louvre. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, it was moved from the Louvre to a hiding place elsewhere in France.
The now famous painting was not very well-known until the mid nineteenth century, when it began to be appreciated by artists of the emerging Symbolist movement, who associated it with their ideas about feminine mystique. This view of the painting was most fully expressed by the critic Walter Pater in his 1867 essay on Leonardo, in which he described her 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".
The painting's increasing fame was further emphasised when it was stolen on August 21, 1911. On September 7, avant-garde French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be "burnt down", was arrested and put in jail on suspicion of theft. His friend Pablo Picasso was brought in for questioning, but both were later released. At the time, the famous painting was believed lost forever. It turned out that Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia stole it by simply walking out the door with it hidden under his coat. The theft was master-minded by Eduardo de Valfierno, a con-man who had commissioned the French art forger Yves Chaudron to make copies of the famous painting so he could sell them as the missing original. Because he didn't need the original for his con, he never contacted Peruggia again after the crime. 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 a Florence art dealer; it was exhibited all over Italy and returned to the Louvre in 1913.
During World War II the famous painting was again removed from the Louvre and brought to safety, first in Chateau Amboise, then in the abbey of Loc-Dieu and finally in the Ingres Museum in Montauban.
Tourists viewing the Mona Lisa through security glass (prior to 2005 move)In 1956, the lower part of the famous painting was severely damaged after an acid attack. Several months later someone threw a stone at it. It is now covered by security glass.
From December 14, 1962 to March of 1963, the painting was lent to the United States and shown in New York City and Washington D.C. In 1974, the famous painting went on tour again and was exhibited in Tokyo and Moscow before being returned to the Louvre for good.
Prior to the 1962-63 tour, the famous painting was assessed for insurance purposes at $100 million. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this makes the Mona Lisa the most valuable painting ever insured . As an expensive painting, it has only recently been surpassed by Pablo Picasso's Garçon à la pipe, which was sold for $104.1 million on May 4, 2004. However, this does not account for the change in prices due to inflation -- $100 million in 1962 is approximately $608 million in 2004 when adjusted for inflation using the US consumer price index.
On April 6, 2005 — following a period of curatorial maintenance, recording, and analysis — the famous painting was moved, within the Louvre, to a new home in the museum's Salle des Etats. It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind unbreakable, non-reflective glass.
Identity of the model
The famous painting may or may not be a portrait of a real woman. Vasari identified the subject to be the wife of the socially prominent Francesco del Giocondo. It is known that del Giocondo, a wealthy silk merchant of Florence and a prominent government figure, really existed. Little is known about his wife, Lisa Gherardini, except that she was born in 1479 and raised at the family's Villa Vignamaggio in Tuscany, and that she married del Giocondo in 1495.
During the last years of his life, Da Vinci spoke of a portrait "of a certain Florentine lady done from life at the request of the magnificent Giuliano de' Medici." No evidence has been found that indicates a link between Lisa Gherardini and Giuliano de' Medici, but then the comment could instead refer to one of the two other portraits of women executed by Da Vinci. A later anonymous statement created confusion when it linked the Mona Lisa to a portrait of Francesco del Giocondo himself – perhaps the origin of the controversial idea that it is the portrait of a man.
Dr. Lillian Schwartz of Bell Labs suggests that the Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait. She supports this theory with the results of a digital analysis of the facial features of Leonardo's face and that of the famous painting. When flipping a self-portrait drawing by Leonardo and then merging that with an image of the Mona Lisa using a computer, the features of the faces align perfectly. Critics of this theory suggest that the similarities are due to both portraits being painted by the same person using the same style.
Maike Vogt-Lüerssen argues that the woman behind the famous smile is Isabella of Aragon, the Duchess of Milan. Leonardo was court painter for the Duke Of Milan for 11 years. The pattern on Mona Lisa's dark green dress, Vogt-Lüerssen believes, indicates that she is a member of the house of Visconti-Sforza. Her theory is that the Mona Lisa was the first official portrait of the new Duchess of Milan, which requires that it was painted in spring or summer 1489 (and not 1503).
German and Russian students have seen a new fact: the correspondence between the face of Monna Lisa and the face of Caterina Sforza in a portrait of Lorenzo di Credi. Caterina Sorza was the Lady of Forlì and Imola when Cesare Borgia and Leonardo went in Romagna. So Monna Lisa should be Caterina Sforza. The portrait of Lorenzo di Credi is now in the Museum of Forlì, in Italy and is known also as "La dama dei gelsomini".
The famous painting presents the subject from just above the bust, with a distant landscape visible as a backdrop. 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 softly models her hands. The light gives the variety of living surfaces an underlying geometry of spheres and circles, which includes the arc of her famous smile. Sigmund Freud interpreted the 'smile' as signifying Leonardo's erotic attraction to his dear mother; others have described it as both innocent and inviting.
Detail of the face, showing the subtle shading effect of sfumato, particularly in the shadows around the eyes.Many researchers have tried to explain why the smile is seen so differently by people. The explanations range from scientific theories about human vision to curious supposition about Mona Lisa's identity and feelings. Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University has argued that the smile is mostly drawn in low spatial frequencies, and so can best be seen with one's peripheral vision. Christopher Tyler and Leonid Kontsevich of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco believe that the changing nature of the smile is caused by variable levels of random noise in human visual system. Dina Goldin, Adjunct Professor at Brown University, has argued that the secret is in the non-static position of Mona Lisa's facial muscles, where our mind's eye unconsciously extends her smile; the result is an unusual dynamicity to the face that invokes subtle yet strong emotions in the viewer of the famous painting.
Although utilizing a seemingly simple formula for portraiture, the expressive synthesis that Leonardo achieved between sitter and landscape has placed this work in the canon of the most popular and most analyzed paintings of all time. The sensuous curves of the woman's hair and clothing, created through sfumato, are echoed in the undulating valleys and rivers behind her. The sense of overall harmony achieved in the famous painting—especially apparent in the sitter's faint smile—reflects Leonardo's idea of the cosmic link connecting humanity and nature, making this painting an enduring record of Leonardo's vision and genius.
The enigmatic woman is portrayed seated in what appears to be an open loggia (note the 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 blurred outlines, graceful figure, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and overall feeling of calm are characteristic of Leonardo's style.
The famous painting was one of the first portraits to depict the sitter before an imaginary landscape. One interesting feature of the landscape is that it is uneven. The landscape to the left of the figure is noticeably lower than that to the right of her. This has led some critics to suggest that it was added later.
The famous painting has been restored numerous times; X-ray examinations have shown that there are three versions of the Mona Lisa hidden under the present one. The thin poplar backing is beginning to show signs of deterioration at a higher rate than previously thought, causing concern from museum curators about the future of the painting.
Role in popular culture and avant-garde art
The Mona Lisa has acquired an almost iconic status in popular culture. In 1963, pop artist Andy Warhol started making colorful serigraph prints of the Mona Lisa. Warhol thus consecrated her as a modern icon, similar to Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley. At the same time, his use of a stencil process and crude colors implies a criticism of the debasement of aesthetic values in a society of mass production and mass consumption. Today the Mona Lisa is frequently reproduced, finding its way on to everything from carpets to mouse pads.
There have been many films, inspired by the famous painting that used variations of "La Gioconda" and "Mona Lisa" as titles. Some of these are about the painting itself, while others, such as the 1986 comedy drama Mona Lisa or the 2003 feminist drama Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts are about women whose characters were inspired by the painting.
A Mona Lisa parody by Marcel DuchampThe avant-garde art world has also taken note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential Dadaists, made a Mona Lisa parody by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription LHOOQ, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (which means "She has a hot arse"). This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modelled on Duchamp's own face.  Salvador Dalí, famous for his pioneering surrealist work, painted Self portrait as Mona Lisa in 1954.
Many works played, often in a humorous way, on the mysteries and controversies of Mona Lisa's history. Fantastic theories and conspiracies are often entertained by authors of fiction. The 1979 serial City of Death in the science fiction television series Doctor Who revolves around da Vinci making copies of the Mona Lisa. The story suggests that the painting now in the Louvre is painted on top of the message "This is a fake" written in modern felt tip pen.
In the 1990 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Most Toys", an alien who is an obsessive collector owns the Mona Lisa. He also acquires the android Data, who tries to imitate the painting's smile.
An episode of the Disney cartoon Doug revolves around the making of a musical play about the famous painting coming to life and Leonardo having to find her.
Good Omens, a 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman features a character called Anthony Crowley who owns the original cartoon of the Mona Lisa and displays it as the only piece of art in his London flat. Crowley is a demon who has been on Earth since the Fall of Man. He met da Vinci in 16th Century Italy and obtained the cartoon whilst drinking with the polymath. Leonardo and Crowley agree that the cartoon is superior to the finished version ("I got the bloody smile all right in the roughs.")
Eduard Gufeld, the late Ukrainian-American chess grandmaster, published a book in 1994 entitled My Life in Chess: The Search for La Gioconda. In 2001, a revised edition entitled Chess: The Search for the Mona Lisa was released. In the book, Gufeld discussed his quest to play the perfect chess masterpiece. He felt that he had realized this dream in his famous 1973 game against Bagirov.
The February 8, 1999 edition of The New Yorker ran for its cover Dean Rohrer's Monica Lisa, an amalgamation of the Mona Lisa and Monica Lewinsky.
In Kurt Wimmer’s 2002 cult film Equilibrium, the Mona Lisa is destroyed at the hands of tetragrammaton cleric John Preston.
The famous painting features significantly in The Da Vinci Code, a popular novel written by Dan Brown in 2003. Brown's hero, Harvard professor Robert Langdon, claims that the painting expresses Leonardo's belief in the "sacred feminine" and that the title is a coded reference to the Egyptian gods Amon and Isis, "Mona" being an anagram of the former and "Lisa" being a contraction of l'Isa, meaning Isis. This hidden reference is supposed to signify Leonardo's secret opposition to orthodox Christianity and belief in the ideal union of masculine and feminine principles, as does the sitter's androgynous features. In this context he also refers to the self-portrait theory.
In the 2003 comedy Looney Tunes: Back In Action, stuntman DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser) looks through an embedded "X-ray" lens in a playing card — a queen of diamonds with Mona Lisa as Queen — to examine the original Mona Lisa at the Louvre, discovering a hidden map under the famous painting.
This is a list of the highest prices paid for paintings. Very valuable paintings, if sold, are usually sold at auction.
Most of the world's most famous paintings are owned by museums, who very rarely sell them once acquired. As such, they are quite literally priceless; if for some reason paintings like the Mona Lisa were to become available, it is highly likely that they would sell for far higher values than the paintings listed below. The Guinness Book of Records lists the Mona Lisa as the highest insurance valuance for a painting in history. It was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962, prior to the painting touring the U.S. for several months.Taking into account the time value of money, this would be approximately equivalent to US$626,821,192.00 in 2004. The Louvre chose to instead spend the money on security.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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