The Identity of Mona Lisa

Quck answer

Mona Lisa is a famous portrait painting created by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is believed to depict Lisa Gherardini, a woman from Florence, Italy. The painting is known for its enigmatic smile and has become an iconic symbol of the Renaissance period. Despite its popularity, there is still uncertainty surrounding the identity of the sitter and the reasons behind the painting. Mona Lisa’s captivating expression and Leonardo’s masterful technique continue to intrigue art enthusiasts and historians to this day.

When it comes to renowned artworks, there is a very limited list of the most famous paintings in history. Can you think of any notable and invaluable paintings? Perhaps something by Van Gogh or one of Picasso’s masterpieces?

It is highly likely that one of the first paintings that came to your mind was the Mona Lisa. Also known as La Gioconda or La Joconde, the Mona Lisa is a portrait of a woman painted by the renowned Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Art experts claim that the Mona Lisa is the most recognizable, most visited, and overall most celebrated artwork in the world. Painted by da Vinci between 1503 and 1506, the Mona Lisa is an oil painting on a poplar panel.

Originally acquired by King Francis I of France, the Mona Lisa is now the property of France and is permanently displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris. Every year, millions of visitors come to Paris to catch a glimpse of the mysterious smile on Mona Lisa’s face.

But who exactly was Mona Lisa? It is believed that the subject of the painting is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo. Historians speculate that Francesco commissioned the painting to commemorate the birth of their second son, Andrea.

The English title “Mona Lisa” is derived from the subject’s name and the Italian word “mona” (a contraction of the phrase “ma donna”), which means “my lady.” The Italian (La Gioconda) and French (La Joconde) names of the painting come from the Italian word “jocund,” meaning happy or jovial. It is also a play on words with Lisa’s husband’s last name, Francesco del Giocondo.

In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee named Vincenzo Peruggia. Peruggia, an Italian patriot, believed that the painting should be returned to Italy for display. He kept the painting in his apartment for two years before attempting to sell it to a gallery in Florence, where he was eventually caught.

In the late 1950s, the Mona Lisa became a target of several vandalism attempts, resulting in some damage to the painting. However, thanks to modern technology, the Mona Lisa is now protected by bulletproof glass in a controlled environment.

How valuable is the Mona Lisa? Most art enthusiasts would consider it to be priceless. However, if we were to put a price tag on it, some art experts speculate that the painting could fetch over $700 million at an auction!

Give It a Try

Are you interested in learning more about the Mona Lisa? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Could you imagine a single painting having a value of up to $700 million? What else could you purchase with $700 million? What is the maximum amount of money you could ever imagine spending on a piece of art? Are there any possessions that you own that you wouldn’t trade for any amount of money? Simple possessions, like books or video games, are probably not priceless. But what about photographs? Or memories? How about your health? Take some time today to contemplate what is truly invaluable to you!
  • How do the caretakers of the Mona Lisa ensure that she remains in excellent condition? They give her a check-up, of course! Watch National Geographic’s video, “Testing the Mona Lisa,” to discover how art experts and scientists utilize modern technology to ensure that the world’s most famous and valuable painting will endure for many more years.
  • It’s time to unleash your imagination! Visualize Mona Lisa’s smile in your mind, and then create a short story explaining precisely why Mona Lisa is smiling. Does she know a secret? Maybe she is reminiscing about a funny memory from her childhood? Perhaps the painter had a piece of broccoli stuck in his teeth? Your story can be humorous or serious. It’s up to you! Just utilize your imagination to invent a story that elucidates what you believe Mona Lisa is smiling about.

Sources of Wonder



1. Who was Mona Lisa?

Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, is a famous portrait created by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. The painting depicts a woman with a serene expression and enigmatic smile. It is believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a woman from Florence, Italy. However, there is still some debate among art historians about the true identity of the subject.

2. What is the significance of the Mona Lisa?

The Mona Lisa is considered one of the most iconic and enigmatic paintings in the world. Its significance lies in the artistic mastery demonstrated by Leonardo da Vinci and the mystery surrounding the identity and expression of the subject. The painting has inspired countless artists and continues to captivate audiences with its beauty and intrigue.

3. When was the Mona Lisa painted?

The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506. It is believed that he continued to work on the painting until his death in 1519. The painting was created during the Renaissance period, a time of great artistic and intellectual flourishing in Europe.

4. Where is the Mona Lisa located?

The Mona Lisa is currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. It has been on display there since 1797. The painting is protected behind a glass case and is considered one of the museum’s most prized possessions. Visitors from all over the world come to see the famous portrait.

5. What is the size of the Mona Lisa?

The Mona Lisa measures approximately 30 inches in height and 21 inches in width. It is painted on a poplar wood panel, which was a common material used for paintings during that time. Despite its relatively small size, the painting’s impact and influence on art history are immeasurable.

6. Why is the Mona Lisa famous?

The Mona Lisa is famous for several reasons. Firstly, it is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, showcasing Leonardo da Vinci’s exceptional talent as an artist. Secondly, the enigmatic smile of the subject has captured the imagination of viewers for centuries, leading to countless interpretations and speculations. Lastly, the painting’s theft in 1911 and subsequent recovery in 1913 generated significant media attention, further cementing its fame.

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