I wrote this fun paper about the history of the Mona Lisa as the final project for a writing class. In it, I explore the factors that have contributed to make the work by Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably, the most famous painting of all time.
the Mona Lisa, and his fame drew wide attention to Why the Mona Lisa is so Famous his art. His reputation as a genius was well- The Mona Lisa, painted by Italian artist deserved. Leonardo lived his motto, “He is a poorLeonardo Da Vinci, is arguably the most famous pupil who does not surpass his master” and is saidpainting of all time. Six million people visit the to have surpassed not only his masters, but all hisLouvre in France every year to view it (Canetti, contemporaries in each of the many arts andn.d.). Many copies have been made of it. Songs and disciplines to which he committed himself (Potter,movies and books have referenced it, including the 2006, ¶ 3). Leonardo researched anatomy to perfectrecent phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code, which his art. He dissected animal and human cadavers toincreased traffic at the Louvre so learn the muscle and skeletalmuch that the workers went on structure and made copious drawingsstrike out of sheer frustration As art may imitate and notes. He studied perspective, nature, she does not(Bremmer, Tourres, 2007). It is the sky and atmosphere, and the way appear to be painted,estimated that the Mona Lisa is but truly of flesh and light falls on curved surfaces and, blood. On lookingused commercially in some new closely at the pit of based on these studies, refined his her throat, one couldway every week (Puente, 2006). swear that the pulses painting methods. Although only aHow did this painting become so were beating few of his paintings survive today,famous? The fame of the Mona his work is still admired by expertsLisa began because it is an extraordinarily good (Potter, 2006). The Mona Lisa was one of his lastpainting by an artist who was a renowned genius, it paintings, and although the work is only 30 inchesgrew because it gained the attention of kings and tall and 21 inches wide, he spent four yearsthat world-class art museum, the Louvre, and it completing it. In this painting, all his skill isexploded due to a series of near catastrophes, evident.critics, and exploitations. The rendition of the model in the Mona Lisa Leonardo Da Vinci was renowned as an is anatomically perfect. The lighting makes the skininventive and artistic genius long before he painted look so real that one critic said “” (Potter, 2006, ¶
8). He used such thin layers of paint that no one has Lisa, n.d.). Except for some time hidden in afigured out how he did it (Jozefowicz, 2007). In this warehouse during the French Revolution, Monapainting, Leonardo employed a method described Lisa held court in the Louvre almost withoutby Pliny that many other artists have attempted and interruption. She did spend a few years innone have perfected as Leonardo did (Canetti, n.d.). Napoleon’s bedroom (Meanley, 2006), but when heArt critics call it sfumato, which is Italian for was exiled she returned to the Louvre. In that vast“smoky”. It involves the use of miniscule brush museum, which now covers 49 acres, thousands ofstrokes to create subtle transitions between light and visitors have seen her nearly every day for moredark and between colors. The work was so far than 200 years (Mona Lisa, n.d.). Her royalbeyond current methods, that it was received with connections and her high visibility in the Louvreastonishment by all who saw it and attracted great might have been enough to maintain her fame, but aattention (Potter, 2006). near disaster escalated her popularity off the charts. Soon after the splash created by Mona Lisa, In 1910, Theophile Homolle, the director ofFrancois I, king of France, invited Leonardo to the the National Museums, said that stealing the Monapalace at Fontainebleau under his patronage. Five Lisa from the Louvre was impossible. “You mightyears later Leonardo died, leaving the portrait to his as well pretend that one could steal the towers offriend. Francois hung it Notre Dame!” he claimed (Monaprominently in his semi-private Lisa, n.d., p. 7). When Mona Lisagallery in the palace where it When the Mona Lisa disappeared on August 21, 1911, disappeared, Francegained the attention of visitors was shocked. France was shocked. For two years,from all over Europe. There they searched for their nationalMona Lisa acquired an aura of the femme fatale, treasure. Authorities questioned and fired museumperhaps because part of the gallery was in the king’s employees, accused foreign governments andboudoir (Mona Lisa, n.d.). Francois’ art collection business tycoons of publicity stunts, and evenformed the foundation of what eventually became brought in Pablo Picasso for questioning. Buffoonsthe Louvre Museum which opened in 1793 (Mona made jokes, cartoons, riddles, and songs about
Mona Lisa. Someone circulated postcards which 2006). She also became a target for vandals. Indepicted Leonardo taking her out of France 1956, someone spilled acid on the painting andthumbing her nose at Parisians (Mona Lisa, n.d.). damaged it badly (Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa,The Louvre and various journals offered rewards to 2006). Just a few months later a young man threw afortune tellers to foretell what had become of her rock at it which created a small nick. These(Mona Lisa, n.d.). One of them, perhaps inspired by incidents resulted in even stronger security for thethe fresh disaster of the Titanic, declared that she increasingly precious Mona Lisa.had been thrown into the sea. But, As the fame and value of the unlike the “unsinkable” Titanic, Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa increased, it was not lady has appears inthe Mona Lisa’s journey was not surprising that, in 1963, First Lady advertising andover. promotion for Jacqueline Kennedy asked to bring everything On December 10, 1913, a imaginable. her to the United States. It was alsopatriotic Italian named Vincenzo not surprising that the request raisedPerugia, a former Louvre employee, attempted to much consternation. But, Francophile that she was,sell her to an antique dealer in Italy and was Jacque was popular with the French and securedapprehended (Mona Lisa, n.d.). He said he wished permission for a seven-week tour in New York Cityto return the Mona Lisa to her home country. The and Washington, D.C. On that tour, more than oneItalians enjoyed a brief reunion with her before and a half million people saw the famous painting.returning her to the Louvre. They didn’t punish In 1974, more than two million people saw her on aPerugia very hard. tour through Tokyo and Moscow. Ever since then, The subsequent rise in fame of the Mona people have been collecting “Monalisiana” (Puente,Lisa made her a target for modern artists such as 2006). Leonardo’s famous lady has appeared inMarcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali who were advertising and promotion for everythingweary of the tyranny of the classical style (Potter, imaginable. Clearly, Mona Lisa’s colorful past has2006). Both men painted her with a moustache. earned her superstar status.Even the villainy increased her popularity (Puente,
The famous Leonardo Da Vinci has been Jozefowicz, C. (2007, January 19). Da Vinci DECODED. (Cover story). Current Science,called a true Renaissance man, a genius. Few people 92(10), 4-5. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.have genius in both art and science, but Leonardo Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. (2006). Retrieveddid, and for him it was natural to study science to September 10, 2008 from http://www.leonardo-figure out how to produce his art. Little wonder that davinci.org/monalisa.phphe should be the man to produce a painting good Meanley, E. (2006, November 13). My Super Sweet 500! [Electronic version]. Scholastic Scope,enough to become the world’s most famous. 55(6/7), 20-21. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from Academic Search PremierMimicked and studied by contemporaries, adulated database.by kings, romanticized by the crowds in the Louvre, Mona Lisa. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2008, fromabused and exploited and narrowly escaping http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_n av/mona_nav/main_monafrm.htmldisaster more than once, the Mona Lisa has become Potter, P. (2006, August). Art, Science, and Lifesthe most famous painting of all time. With such a Enigmas [Electronic version]. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(8), 1308-1309.combination of factors one wonders whether Retrieved September 7, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.another work could ever surpass her popularity. Puente, M. (2006, May). Mona Lisa has been smiling for 500 years [Electronic version]. USA Today, Retrieved September 7, 2008,References from Academic Search Premier database.Bremmer, C., Tourres, M. (2007, February). Mona Lisa becomes a picture of misery. TimesOnline. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/worl d/europe/article1381404.eceCanetti, C. (n.d.) The world’s most famous painting has the Louvre all aflutter. Retrieved September 9, 2008 from http://www.diplomatie.gouv.frDa Vinci, L. (n.d.). Mona Lisa: Portrait of Lisa Gherardini [digital image]. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from http://public-domain- images.blogspot.com/2010/05/mona-lisa- portrait-of-lisa-gherardini.html