The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world.
It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between the years of 1503 and 1506.
Leonardo da Vinci was Italian and lived in the city of Florence in the province of Tuscany.
The painting was a commission by a wealthy silk merchant Francisco Giacondo for his wife Lisa in celebration of birth of their second child.
‘Mona Lisa’ is certainly a masterpiece of an oil painting..
It was painted during the renaissance period when the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo brought great cultural prestige to the state of Florence and to the Italian State in Europe
The Mona Lisa painting is of a woman in a half body pose from head to waist, sitting on a chair with a landscape in the background. She is perceived as a woman of virtue and faith reflected by her right hand resting on her left and dressed in style of Spanish high fashion of the time.
The painting was never given to Francisco Giacondo and Leonardo received no payment for it.
He kept it with him during his lifetime and probably continued working on it while he lived in France in his remaining years.
In 1516, Leonardo left Italy to go and work for the King of France and took the ‘Mona Lisa’ painting with him.
King Francis, an enthusiastic art collector, was at Leonardo’s bedside when he died three years later in 1519.
Leonardo da Vinci gifted the painting to King Francis and the people of France.
King Francis built the Louvre Palace on the banks of the river seine in Paris and the Mona Lisa painting was housed there where it remains to this day.
For the best part of three hundred years, the Mona Lisa painting did not have any notoriety and and was just another painting as part of the royal collection.
Then in 1793, during the French revolution, the Louvre Palace became a great Art Museum and the Mona Lisa was certainly one of the paintings ordinary people wanted to see.
‘Mona Lisa’ was intended by Napoleon Bonaparte during his time as emperor to be the showpiece at the Louvre among a vast catalogue of great art from across Europe which would vindicate the French Empire under him as the greatest since the time of the Romans many centuries before.
It, however, only became really famous in 1911 after it was stolen from the Louvre Art Gallery by a former employee, Vincenzo Perrugia, who had intended to sell it for profit to the
Effuzi Museum in Florence to where he thought, as an Italian, it rightfully belonged.
Perrugia kept the painting hidden for two years in his Florence apartment before it was eventually discovered and returned to the Louvre Art Gallery.
The recent novel written by American Dan Brown entitled ‘Da Vinci Code’ and the subsequent film based on the book also played a major part in propelling ‘Mona Lisa’ into the public spotlight of the world like no other painting.
Actually, the painting was never titled by Leonardo during his lifetime and has never been called the ‘Mona Lisa’
The English speaking world prefer ‘Mona Lisa’ because it is easier to say as a slapdash contraction of ‘Madonna Lisa’ with reference to the noble lady that Lisa Del Giacondo no doubt was.
The official title is ‘La Joconde (in French) and ‘La Gioconda’ (in Italian), taken to mean ‘the Happy One’ with reference to the family name of the woman who was supposedly the sitter for the portrait.
It was a title given to the painting during the middle of the sixteenth century in published writings by Georgio Vasari, an acquaintance of the Gioconda family.
There are many mysteries about the extraordinary, well-detailed painting which Leonardo da Vinci has certainly taken to his grave.
Closer analysis by modern day experts using carbon dating and pigmentation have suggested that the painting depicts not a woman at all but a man and that that man is Leonardo da Vinci himself.
The lack of eyebrows and the position of the hands might not give too much away but that, enigmatic smile just might.
It is also hard to accept that a great and gifted painter such as Leonardo da Vinci would not have made an earlier version of the ‘Mona Lisa’ before eventually finishing and protecting his masterpiece.
Such a copy is known to exist as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, so called because it was kept in the London suburb of Isleworth by British Art connoisseur Hugh Baker until 1913.
The ‘Mona Lisa’ painting is one of the most disputed artifacts in the world. Italy believes and has claimed that the painting belongs to their nation state and should be returned to hang in the Effuzi Museum in Florence.
The French believe that Leonardo da Vinci passed the painting to them on his death and it is most unlikely that ‘Mona Lisa’ will ever return to Italy.
The mystery of the ‘Mona Lisa’ remains.