The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  The French have decided that it is so precious that they will no longer loan it out.  So, if you want to see her secret smile you will have to come to Paris.  Visitors spend about an average of 15 seconds viewing the masterpiece.  About 6 million people come to Paris to view it every year.

Mona Lisa


It was of course painted by Leonardo DiVinci. In Italian the painting is known as La Gioconda.  There is much speculation about the identity of the woman that this painting is depicting. It is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo – hence the alternative title, La Gioconda.  Leonardo apparently did not give the painting to the family that commissioned it, but instead took it to France.  It returned to Italy with one of his students and it is not clear how it ended up in François I’s collection. (according to the Louvre).

If you look she has no eye lashes or eye brows. Her forehead is also very long.  There is controversy if it was the fashion of the time or if it has been too rigorously cleaned in the past.

The painting was stolen 21 Aug 1911 by Vincenzo Perugia.  It was gone for 28 hours before it was noticed.  He left a thumb print from his left hand, but they were unable to match it to the newly made finger print date base because they only fingered printed one had.  He was in the data base because he had been arrested before.  It was missing for 2 years. It was found when he tried to sell it to a gallery in Florence.  It spent the two years in his apartment just a few blocks from the Louvre.  Until he contacted the gallery, the authorities had not clue to where it went or who absconded with the painting. This act made the painting very popular,  the thief was given 6 months jail time and was considered a national hero because he was trying to return an Italian national treasure.

The painting was damaged twice in 1956.  First when acid was thrown at the bottom and second when Ugo Ungava threw a rock at her elbow. The rock caused a chip that was later repaired. In April 1974 a “lame woman”, upset by the museum’s policy for disabled people, sprayed red paint at the painting while it was on display at the Tokyo National Museum. On 2 August 2009, a Russian woman, distraught over being denied French citizenship, threw a terra cotta mug or teacup, purchased at the museum,it shattered against the glass enclosure. In both cases, the painting was undamaged.

It was painted on poplar wood instead of canvas.  It has to be stabilized and braced because the wood has warped and cracked over time.  In various stages the wood used to brace and stablize it has found to contain pests.

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 that reportedly cost around 7 million to build. 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 treated to provide 55% relative humidity.

There currently is a younger version of the painting on display in Singapore, there is currently controversy if it was actually painted by DiVinci.  It is painted on canvas instead of wood.

*facts taken from the Louvre website,, the Telegraph and other news sources.


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