Rarely known facts about Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world. From her smile to her hands, and from her dress to the background, everything about Mona Lisa is in enchanting. She is also a centre of attraction because of the several mysteries that surround her. A masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci – one of the most famous painters of the Renaissance period – Mona Lisa has continued to intrigue everyone till date.

Here are some interesting facts about this masterpiece.

Not “Mona” Lisa

Mona Lisa’s first name was never Mona. Her real name was “Monna” Lisa,  which in German meant ‘ My lady Lisa’. However, due to complications during its translation ‘Monna’ became Mona. With the press and other mass media picking up this mistake, Lisa’s first name became to Mona.

The real “My Lady” Lisa

There have been many speculations about the identity of the woman in the painting, however, many believe that it was indeed Lisa del Giocondo who served as the modal for Mona Lisa.

Lisa del Giocondo was an Italian noblewoman and member of the Gherardini family of Florence. Commissioned by her husband, and painted by Da Vinci, she is the real Lisa. Like many other noble families in Florence, her family was also very much interested and invested in art. Leonardo, one of the most prominent painters of that time, was thus asked to paint a portrait of the beautiful lady.

Lisa’s famous owners

Napoleon Bonaparte

Over the years, Mona Lisa has adorned the houses and palaces of several rich people. Among the most famous ones is King Francois I, the king of France. Leonardo Da Vinci moved to France on the King’s request while the painting was still incomplete. The French king was the first to display the painting in his Fontainebleau palace where it remained for an entire century.

King Louis XIV removed the painting from there. Louis XIV was the longest-ruling monarch of Europe, whose reign lasted for over 72 years. He placed the painting in the grand Palace of Versailles.

In the early 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte acquired the painting and placed it in its own private room. In literal terms, Napoleon actually slept with Mona Lisa, although not in the same bed. Lisa didn’t seem to mind.

What’s so special about her smile?

Mona Lisa's smile

It is said that Mona Lisa’s smile is enchanting. Although it’s not just the only thing that makes you stare at the painting, it is definitely something to be enchanted about. But what’s so special about it?

For starters, many believe that she is not actually smiling. The expression Mona Lisa has is that of a casual one. Whether she is smiling or not cannot really be confirmed.

For others, it is a simple and shy smile. The one you see on a face of simple delight, like when you see a baby.

For many others, if you keep staring at the painting, you will feel that her smile broadens. This is, however, not so much acknowledged.

Whatever the reason, the smile of Mona Lisa is open to interpretation. Everyone has a different story to tell. People also like to argue about the reason for her smile. This is what makes it enchanting.

Leonardo’s self-portrait

Mona Lisa as Leonardo's self portrait

Though the lady in the painting has been identified as Lisa del Giocondo, a lack of definitive evidence has insulated other theories as well.

Artist Susan White, in her book Anatomy of a Smile: Mona’s Bones (2002), has interpreted that after careful observation, Mona Lisa’s face and cranial structure follows male face proportions rather than female proportions. She supports this theory with the results of a digital analysis of the facial features of the woman in the painting. This has led many to suggest that the painting is actually a self-portrait of the painter Da Vinci himself. Or rather, how he would have looked if he were a woman.

The mysterious, out-of-place background

Mona Lisa background

At first look, the background of the paintings appears random and out of place. It is said that Lisa is sitting on a balcony, but it is quite sceptical because of her obnoxious background. Her background consists of mountains and cliffs, lakes and valleys, and a yellow-tinted sky. The place appears a work of imagination.

However, according to an article by Italian Magazine (read more), the background actually exists and has been identified. It is a region in Italy known as Montefeltro in the Marche. It was ruled Montefeltro family in ancient times, thus the name.

Mona Lisa has been stolen – twice!

Mona Lisa stolen
Left: Mona Lisa missing from Louvre | Right: Vincenzo Peruggia

Mona Lisa has been stolen twice, and the second time it was stolen, it became news! The painting became a world-famous masterpiece after it was found missing from its original place in Louvre in 1911. Even Pablo Picasso was one of the prime suspects.

On 21 August 1911, the painting was stolen from the Louvre. This glorifying feat was performed by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian handyman. Glorifying because no matter what the deed, he made the painting world famous. The image of the painting was published in every newspaper’s front page and remained on interior pages until it was found. Every other wall and pole had the painting’s image with information and action to be performed if it was found. Even after this, the painting was lost for over two years.

In December 1913, Peruggia was finally caught and the Mona Lisa recovered, becoming the best-known painting in time.

“There was nothing that really distinguished it per se, other than it was a very good work by a very famous artist — that’s until it was stolen,” said Noah Charney, professor of art history. “The theft is what really skyrocketed its appeal and made it a household name.”

She is priceless . . . literally! She belongs to everyone

Mona Lisa Louvre

Mona Lisa is literally priceless. Nobody currently owns the painting and any evidence of a previous owner does not exist. It is put on for display in a separate room in Louvre. Thus, if anybody is willing to buy the painting to add it to their private collection, they can’t do so, because nobody owns the right to auction it.

In a way, Mona Lisa also belongs to the public. Since no can buy it, it is certified that nobody will ever take it away from Louvre. You can go and see the painting as many times as you want, and whenever you want. But yes, you cannot definitely sleep with the painting.

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