Mona Lisa

In 1911, artist Pablo Picasso was a suspect in the theft of which painting in Paris?

And the answer: Mona Lisa.    

Photo credit: public domain. 

In 1911, the Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre museum in Paris. An investigation uncovered that Pablo Picasso and an accomplice had indeed stolen two sculptures from the museum, but not the Mona Lisa. That famous painting showed up two years later in Italy, and was eventually returned to the Louvre, where it remains today.

The Mona Lisa (known in Italian as La Gioconda and in French as La Joconde) is commonly considered one of the greatest, most provoking portraits from the mastermind that is Leonardo da Vinci. Commissioned in 1517 by French King Francis I, Mona Lisa was one of the final works by da Vinci, and one that immediately held significance for the Renaissance artist. As da Vinci grew well into his sixties, he moved from his studio in Italy to a chateau in France, bringing with him dozens of sketchbooks but just one painting: Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci challenged the playing field in a number of ways. By painting Mona Lisa in a comfortable, three-quarter pose, he created a portrayal of femininity that was otherwise unknown to the time period. She is not harsh, unsmiling, or rigid in any way. Instead, Mona Lisa is softened and mischievous, smiling a nearly unreadable smile. Her eyes follow the viewer, unflinchingly. Da Vinci's intimate cropping, new blending techniques, and atmospheric perspective of the background came together to create the look of a masterpiece.

Mona Lisa has also lived an interesting cultural history. After hanging quietly in French palaces for a few hundred years, Napoleon Bonaparte chose the painting to hang on his bedroom wall. Jettisoned into a newfound fame, Mona Lisa found her way to the walls of the Louvre, where (gasp!) it was stolen in the early 20th century. After being recovered, the painting was returned to the famous French museum, where it remains today.

Learn more about this iconic work of art below.

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