Famous Artwork: The Mona Lisa

Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com. The Mona Lisa behind a crowd of museum-goers at the Louvre.
Editorial credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com. The Mona Lisa behind a crowd of museum-goers at the Louvre.

The Mona Lisa is a Leonardo da Vinci painting made between 1503 and 1506, which has received the most recognition worldwide in arts, music, and tourism. The oil on poplar painting depicts the half body of a woman thought to be Lisa, Francesco del Giocondo’s wife. The subject of the painting depicts a modest woman from her poise and mysterious smile. Behind her is a mountainous landscape of da Vinci’s creation, the first visionary landscape used in painting. Some have interpreted the painting as a depiction of an ideal while some have romanticized it. The Mona Lisa, apart from being the subject of worldwide adoration, has fallen victim of theft, vandalism, and damage to its medium by natural elements. The painting has been restored several times and is currently protected behind bulletproof glass.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a 15th century Italian renaissance artist born in 1452. Da Vinci was one of the most multitalented men of his time pursuing interests in painting, sculpture, architecture, and various fields of science such as mathematics, engineering, astronomy and botany, literature, and geology. Da Vinci apprenticed under Verrocchio from 1466 and stayed with him for seven years. Da Vinci’s first known work was the drawing of Arno Valley dated 1473. By the end of the 15th century, da Vinci was recognized as a divine artist with most of his students trying to imitate his style. However, he was never known to complete most of the projects he began. Some of his well-known works besides The Mona Lisa include The Last Supper, The Vitruvian Man, and The Lady with an Ermine. Da Vinci moved from Florence to Venice and Milan throughout his life. He died in 1519 in France and was buried in the chapel of St. Hubert.


The painting of Mona Lisa is under the ownership of the French republic. The painting is displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris and is protected within a bulletproof glass. Within the glass are regulated climatic conditions to preserve the painting. Da Vinci bequeathed the Mona Lisa to Salai, his pupil who sold it to King Francis I of France for 4,000 écus. The painting was displayed in the Palace of Fontainebleau and later in the Palace of Versailles. The painting was then kept at the Louvre and briefly in Napoleon’s Tuileries Palace. The Louvre acted as the official location for the painting, which was only moved during the Franco-Prussian war and the Second World War.


The Mona Lisa rose to recognition in the early 20th century following its theft from the Louvre. The painting has been the object of inspiration for artists since the Renaissance period influencing such works as Raphael’s Young Woman with Unicorn, and the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione. Several artists throughout history have recreated versions of the Mona Lisa including the Isleworth Mona Lisa and Prado’s version of the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is the best known, the most written about, the most visited, the most parodied, and the most sung about piece of art in the world.

Financial Worth

During the 1960s assessment of the painting for insurance, the Mona Lisa was valued at $100 million, an equivalent of US$782 million in current rates. The Mona Lisa is one of the world’s most expensive paintings and is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as the painting with the highest insurance value. However, the Mona Lisa is a public property thus the original cannot be sold.


More in World Facts