Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
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Leonardo da Vinci Paints the Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda) is a 16th century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The work is owned by the Government of France and is on the wall in the Louvre in Paris, France with the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.

The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a woman whose expression is often described as enigmatic. The ambiguity of the sitter's expression, the monumentality of the half-figure composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the painting's continuing fascination. Few other works of art have been subject to as much scrutiny, study, mythologizing, and parody

Historian Donald Sassoon catalogued the growth of the painting's fame. During the mid-1800s, Théophile Gautier and the Romantic poets were able to write about Mona Lisa as a femme fatale 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 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, Antonio da Correggio, Paolo Veronese, Titian, Jean-Baptiste Greuze 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 1962–3 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 dollar price, by three other paintings: the Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt, which was sold for $135 million, the Woman III by Willem de Kooning sold for $138 million in November 2006, and No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock sold for a record $140 million on in November 2006. Although these figures are greater than the 1962 figure which the Mona Lisa was valued at, the comparison does not account for the change in prices due to inflation - $100 million in 1962 is approximately $700 million in 2009 when adjusted for inflation using the US Consumer Price Index.

Reams have been written about this small masterpiece by Leonardo, and the gentle woman who is its subject has been adapted in turn as an aesthetic, philosophical and advertising symbol, entering eventually into the irreverent parodies of the Dada and Surrealist artists. The history of the panel has been much discussed, although it remains in part uncertain. According to Vasari, the subject is a young Florentine woman, Monna (or Mona) Lisa, who in 1495 married the well-known figure, Francesco del Giocondo, and thus came to be known as ``La Gioconda''. The work should probably be dated during Leonardo's second Florentine period, that is between 1503 and 1505. Leonardo himself loved the portrait, so much so that he always carried it with him until eventually in France it was sold to François I, either by Leonardo or by Melzi.