The Mona Lisa, sometimes also known as La Gioconda (It.) or La Joconde (Fr.), is a woman of mystery. So many myths surround her that the only way to look at her, and to really see her, is to forget them all and just take her for what she is – one of Leonardo da Vinci’s finest paintings.
The Mona Lisa lives in the Museé du Louvre, and the Louvre lives in a palais, a fitting place for such a famous Signora. Tiny placards throughout the maze of hallways in this museum point in the direction of her, creating a kind of scavenger hunt for its most famous painting in residence. Indeed, she is probably the most famous painting in the world.
Once arrived in the painting’s general vicinity, all there is to see, really, are people. People of every shape and size, and every nationality on the planet form a line that snakes through the gallery like Eve’s serpent. Once arrived at the painting, there are only seconds to come face to face with this curious woman before the guard shuffles everyone on to keep the line moving.
The Mona Lisa is a small painting, only 31 inches high and 21 inches wide and is painted in oils on a poplar wood panel – a common painting surface of the time. She was painted by Leonardo between the years of 1503 and 1506 in Florence. Da Vinci’s use of sfumato transcended the painterly convention of the time, as did the angle of the sitter, il contrapposto, along with the bird’s-eye view of the background. It is said that during the years when she was in the possession of Leonardo, he never traveled without her. In 1516, Leonardo brought Mona Lisa to France where he was persuaded to sell her to King François I for 4,000 écus, which was quite a lot of money at the time.
In her history, she has lived in a number of places, including the Château de Fountainbleau, the Château de Versailles and Napolean I’s bedroom in the Palais du Tuileries.