Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year-old painting, Mona Lisa has captivated the hearts and minds of billions of people. Mona Lisa is not only the most recognized painting in the world that is kept under bulletproof glass in its own room, but it sits in one of the most visited museums, the Louvre in Paris, France.
Plenty has been speculated about this painting making the task of understanding it both tedious yet satisfactory. Let’s figure out the captivating beauty and enigma behind da Vinci’s most genius invention.
Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, was unarguably the best painter, innovator and sculptor the world has ever seen. An engaging tale that’s always been associated with da Vinci was his love for discovering the secrets of the human body. His profound knowledge of anatomy always reflected in his artistic products.
At first glance the painting in question appears to have a woman dressed in modest clothes with a translucent veil covering her head. Her smile is delicate. Her expressions, modest. Da Vinci’s calibre seeps inside the painting and brings it to life by making her expressions alive. It was the first time that a portrait painting was done to showcase a three-sided body pose.
But a walk in any museum will help you understand that many paintings exist that are lively and have the name of a famous painter attached to them. Then what is the secret to Mona Lisa’s success?
The answer lies with its infamous history. France’s King, Francis I, had Leonardo in its court which naturally made Mona Lisa a part of the royal collection. After the French Revolution, the king’s possession and wealth became a part of the French population. Mona Lisa, too became a part of the country’s museum where it garnered heavy attention.
Soon came the 19th century and everyone became obsessed with the intellectual revolution that was the Renaissance. Many Renaissance sculptors and painters became a part of the public conversation. Leonardo da Vinci too came into the forefront. He was hailed as a genius for having studied anatomy, paintings, sculpting, and making apt cartography sketches among other things.
Yet one cannot define Mona Lisa’s success because of the novelty and genius of da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci has also painted other fine works, like The Last Supper and Salvator Mundi. Those works are not as widely recognized as the fine Mona Lisa.
But then in 1911, a tragedy broke in the Louvre as they discovered the painting missing in its collection. The lost painting garnered heavy media attention and many people stormed the gates of the museum to get a glimpse of the now-empty wall where the painting was once hung. The media tried to uncover its robbery wherein even Pablo Picasso was a suspect. But two years later the painting was recovered and the real robber Vincenzo Peruggia was taken into custody. The loss and found of the painting ultimately skyrocketed the popularity of the painting. It began to be seen as France’s national treasure that was lost but ultimately retrieved.
After the ultimate triumph of the painting, it has still on many occasions garnered the mass’s attention. On a visit to America, the painting of Mona Lisa traveled on a first-class cabin. On another occasion, it was mocked by an artist named Marcel Duchamp, which created a small controversy. We cannot count the number of times Mona Lisa was referred to in our pop culture. From Family Guy, Monty Python, and Doctor Who.
Mona Lisa and her grace are still widely acknowledged in our times. A quick search on the net and you will find countless memes and references of this iconic painting. One cannot pinpoint the exact incident that helped fuel our obsession with Mona Lisa but one can certainly express thousands of incidents that helped us fall in deep love with this painting.