Mona Lisa

oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait painting by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is considered an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, and has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world". The painting's novel qualities include the subject's expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modelling of forms, and the atmospheric illusionism.

"Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife". ~Giorgio Vasari

The painting is likely of the Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel. It had been believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506; however, Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. Recent academic work suggests that it would not have been started before 1513. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic itself, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.


  • To you, a prostitute is some kind of beautiful object. You respect her as you do the Mona Lisa, in front of whom you also would not make an obscene gesture. But in so doing, you think nothing of depriving thousands of women of their souls and relegating them to an existence in an art gallery. As if we consort with them so artistically!
    • Walter Benjamin, Letter to Herbert Belmore, June 23, 1913, in The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, p. 35.
  • Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
    You're so like the lady with the mystic smile
    Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you?
    For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?
  • There has to be a reason why the Mona Lisa has such a hold on the imagination of countless millions of people in the world, most of whom have seen only reproductions. Why is this so? I suggest that it is our response to the fact that Leonardo is 4.4 degrees initiate, almost a Master. One senses that he is no longer working in the three worlds, physical, astral and mental, in which average humanity lives. His painting represents the beauty of Reality in a spiritual or even a cosmic sense which finds expression through the activity of the 4th and 7th rays — that is, through the relationship between colour and form...
  • Florence Thompson, the Mona Lisa of the 1930s, a migrant mother whose picture haunted the nation.
    • Bob Dotson, In pursuit of the American dream (1985), p. 4.
  • Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club?
    • Alfred Whitney Griswold, baccalaureate address, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (9 June 1957) —Congressional Record (11 June 1957), vol. 103, Appendix, p. A4545.
  • [S]ince art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form only reinforces the concept. It is the idea that is being reproduced. Anyone who understands the work of art owns it. We all own the Mona Lisa.

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