The Mona Lisa is enchanting, world-famous, seductive, and enigmatic in the hearts of millions. It is considered as the ultimate artwork, endlessly admired, and photographed all over the world. The painting appears in countless advertisements, has inspired poetry, sculpture, forgery, and even theft. Yet, behind the enigmatic look, she is a mystery.
So, what made her the world’s most famous painting? Why were millions thronging to catch a glimpse of the artwork during its exhibition in New York? What’s so unique about it? Why were the viewers given just 10 seconds to see it in Tokyo? There are several reasons behind the painting’s enduring fame.
To understand the reason behind the enduring fame of this artwork, one must look into the origins of the masterpiece, innovative art techniques, and famous theft attempts.
During the 16th century, a man created a painting of a woman. The man was none other than Leonardo Da Vinci – an artist, scientist, inventor, doctor, genius. The final outcome of his artwork was the inscrutable portrait we now called the Mona Lisa.
The woman’s identity in the portrait is one of the painting’s many conundrums. Who was she? It is believed that she was the spouse of a humble merchant by the name, Francesco del Giocondo. He was the one who commissioned Da Vinci to create a painting of his spouse, Lisa Gherardini.
It took Da Vinci almost a decade (1509-1519) to create this masterpiece and it is actually one of his few finished works.
Unique Art Techniques
Leonardo Da Vinci incorporated a number of innovative and unique techniques to create this masterpiece. The realistic, life-like painting of Mona Lisa is unlike most artworks of his time (16th century).
Leonardo’s art techniques were unique and unknown during the Renaissance. He’s the one who invented the “sfumato”, a technique that produces soft outlines by allowing colors and tones to gradually melt into one another.
Aside from using sfumato, which was a rare technique during the 16th century, the woman’s enigmatic expression was something else. At once both enticing and aloof, it is said that her expression changes when viewed from different angles.
The Mona Lisa (aka La Gioconda) is also the first Italian half-length portrait. Also, because of Leonardo’s incredible mastery in shadows and lighting, the woman’s eyes seem to follow wherever the viewer may be standing.
There were, of course, several other unique characteristics about the Mona Lisa such as the landscape in the background. Generally, portraits were drawn with a room as the background or an open sky, or a monotone background. Furthermore, the mountains in the Mona Lisa gave it a more whimsical look.
The Heist That Made It Famous
For centuries, the painting of Mona Lisa hung silently, generally unnoticed, in the Louvre. But it all changed on 21 August 1911, when it got stolen from the museum in a heist that brought worldwide attention.
When officials realized that the painting was missing, the museum remained closed for seven days for investigators to piece the puzzle together. Initially, several conspiracy theories came about: some considered it a publicity stunt staged by Louvre, speculations that Pablo Picasso had stolen it or perhaps, Guillaume Apollinaire was behind it. The French police condemned the Louvre for its lax security, whereas the museum publically criticized law enforcement officers for not being able to come up with any leads.
Two years later, in late 1913, an art dealer from Florentine by the name, Alfredo Geri received a note from a man who had the painting. Upon receiving the letter, Alfredo contacted the police immediately and got Vincenzo Peruggia arrested.
Vincenzo was an Italian carpenter and investigation revealed that he worked at the museum when the heist took place. He admitted that he simply took the painting off from the wall and snuck in under his coat and left the museum.
The painting was found hidden safely in his apartment, which was not so far from the museum. Vincenzo did it because he felt that the artwork was meant to be a property of an Italian museum and not a French one.
After the Louvre got the Mona Lisa back, thousands of French flocked to view the artwork and soon, people from all over the world did too. The painting which was a simple, small portrait of a supposedly smiling woman became an overnight sensation. This ultimately led to the painting becoming the world’s most recognized artwork.
Every year, over 6 million people head to Paris to view the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. After all, it is the most popular, most enigmatic and of course, the most talked-about artwork of all time.
Although the painting is undoubtedly an incredible work of art, there is no one reason for its fame. Rather, it is the combination of a hundred circumstances and the portrait’s inherent appeal that makes the Mona Lisa one of the world’s most popular paintings.
Located in Paris, France, if you were to ever pay the Mona Lisa a visit, you will also get to see some beautiful and stunning Instagram-worthy landmarks, monuments, parks in Paris. Of course, you’ll need to have followers if you wish to get your posts noticed. Fortunately, there are sites that help you gain free Instagram followers to make sure that none of your pictures go unappreciated.