When it comes to famous works of art, there’s a very short list of the most famous paintings of all time. What famous, priceless paintings can you think of? Something by Van Gogh? Maybe one of Picasso’s works?

Chances are, one of the first paintings you might have thought of was the Mona Lisa. Sometimes known as La Gioconda or La Joconde, the Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait of a woman by famous Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

According to art experts, the Mona Lisa is the best known, most visited and overall most famous work of art in the entire world. Painted by da Vinci between 1503 and 1506, the Mona Lisa is an oil painting on a poplar panel.

Acquired by King Francis I of France, the Mona Lisa is now the property of France. It is on permanent display in Paris at the Louvre museum. Millions of visitors come to Paris every year to see the enigmatic smile on Mona Lisa’s lips.

But exactly who was Mona Lisa? The subject of the painting is believed to be Lisa Gherardini. She was the wife of a wealthy silk merchant from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo. Historians believe Francesco commissioned the painting for their new home to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea.

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

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

In the late 1950s, the Mona Lisa was the subject of several attempts at vandalism. The painting did suffer damage from these attacks. Thanks to modern technology, though, the Mona Lisa is now protected by bulletproof glass in a climate-controlled environment.

How valuable is the Mona Lisa? Most art lovers would consider it to be priceless. If a dollar figure had to be attached to the painting, though, some art experts believe an auction of the painting would bring a price of over $700 million!

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  1. Mona Lisa is not smiling! We don’t understand why it is the most famous painting in the world.
    Some of our friends thought it was a little scary.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about voting for president, being first, being first in a talent show, and being last.

    • Hey there, Ms. Bayko’s Class, we are so happy you shared your Wonder comment with us this morning! One of the coolest things about art is that everyone’s opinion matters! If you see the Mona Lisa painting and you don’t think it’s that great– that’s okay! :) While many aren’t certain if she is wearing a smile (or frown), the artist that painted Mona Lisa is one famous man– Leonardo Da Vinci! He was an artist, a scientist and an inventor! He had many talents to share which makes him a very famous historical figure! :)

      • She was the wife of a wealthy silk merchant from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo. Every year people come to France to see Mona Lisa.

        • You’re right, Kyle! Thanks so much for sharing your comment today, isn’t the Mona Lisa (the painting and the woman) so fun to Wonder about? We Wonder if you have a favorite painting, Kyle? Perhaps you enjoy painting or drawing? :)

    • Thank you so much, Wonder Friend Page! We are glad you’re here this morning! What is your favorite part of today’s artistic Wonder? :)

    • We bet you can use your awesome imagination to form a guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, Payson! What was your favorite fact from today’s grinning Wonder? :)

  2. The Wonder of the Day today reminded me of a story about Leonardo Da Vinci that we read in class. The video also reminded me of another video that we watched. It showed how the Mona Lisa got her smile.

    • WOW, it sounds like this was a great connection to what you’re learning in class, Kamaria! We love that today’s Wonder made you think of another Wonder– you’re putting together awesome ideas and facts! We think it’s cool that you have been reading about Leonardo Da Vinci already- what an interesting man! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Chris! We are glad you shared your answer to today’s Wonder! While the woman in the painting is no longer alive, she is believed to have been Lisa Gherardini. Lisa’s husband wanted to celebrate their new home and new baby boy with a painting, so he requested that Da Vinci paint his wife to decorate their home. :)

    • How cool, Wonder Friend Tatianna! We’re so glad that this Wonder connected to what you’ve been learning in art class! We are glad the video allowed us enough time to study the beautiful portrait! Have a terrific Tuesday! :)

  3. Dear, wonderopolis

    I think today’s wonder was very interesting because I have never seen a better painting in my life and I could never paint somthing that good. I am really into art so I was really exited to see this. I don’t know what tomorrow’s wonder wil be about.
    :) :-) :) :-) :) :-)

    • We hope you can visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa in person, Maddy! We are so happy this Wonder sparked your creativity– we bet you’re a SUPER artist! Keep up the great work and WONDERing! See you tomorrow! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Today’s wonder was kind of boring but I think the artist who made Mona Lisa was amazing because the detail is awesome. I wish I could paint like that. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a name draw or elections. Either for a president or mayor.

    • Hey there, Alexa, thanks for sharing your comment about today’s Wonder. We’re sorry to hear it’s not one of your favorites but we are glad that you appreciated Da Vinci’s artistic talent! We hope you’ll try your hand at painting, pottery or another type of art– we would love to hear about it! Thanks for telling us about your awesome guess for tomorrow’s Wonder! You did a great job using context clues! :)

  5. Hi wonderopolis

    I think that art is a beautiful and that the piece of Mona Lisa is amazing. And to think
    it costs 700 million dollars.

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I think today’s wonder of the day was kind of boring! The artist who made the Mona Lisa has a very big talent to draw all that detail on a painting. I love to draw and doodle I am very into art! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a name draw or elections for president or mayor.
    :-) :( :) :( :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Karsen! It sounds like you and Wonder Friend Alexa are on the same page– you have very similar comments! :)

      We’re happy to hear that you enjoy art, and we hope you keep creating WONDERful art! Thanks for telling us about your Wonder guess for tomorrow, too! :)

  7. Sorry I was sick and I did not write :( Well back to the picture wink wink. I think no one should try to break it or try to paint over that art.

    From Jayden :P

    To wonderopolis :V

    • We hope you’re feeling better, Wonder Friend Jayden! We’re so glad you’re here today, and we are glad you shared your thoughts about respecting art! We liked learning about the safe case the Mona Lisa painting sits in… it’s well-protected! :)

  8. We don’t think she is scary. We don’t think she is smiling either. We think she is thinking. She looks like she is posing. She is kind of happy. She is beautiful. We like her black hair. We are going to read more to find out how it became so famous.

    Mrs. Smith’s second grade

    • Thanks for sharing your comment about today’s Wonder, Mrs. Smith’s Class! We like your description of Mona Lisa– she is thinking, posing, happy, beautiful! What great Wonder words! WAY TO GO! :)

      We hope you have a SUPER time WONDERing about why Mona Lisa is so famous, and all about her intelligent and creative artist! :)

  9. Mona Lisa’s name is actually Lisa Gherardini. She was married to a rich guy
    too. Leonardo de Vinci drew Mona Lisa. And you can find art work Leonardo
    did at the DC National Gallery of Art.

    • Way to go, Wonder Friend Laila S! You have done a SUPER job of summarizing what you learned today from our Mona Lisa Wonder! Great work! We Wonder if you have traveled to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.? :)

  10. Good morning, Wonderopolis!

    We are still wondering about the Mona Lisa Wonder. Here are some of things we are still wondering about.
    Aiden – How old was Lisa when she was painted?
    Tyler – What was Lisa’s first son’s name?
    Grace – Why was only half of her body painted?
    Megan – Does the painter, Leonardo Da Vinci, have any other famous paintings?
    Andrew – Why when you move around, does it look like Mona Lisa is looking at you?
    Lauren – How old was Leonardo Da Vinci when he painted the Mona Lisa?

    We hope you have a WONDERful day! We are hoping for our 1st snow day tomorrow!

    • HOORAY, our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Phillips’ WONDERful Class have joined us today! What a treat on this awesome Tuesday! :)

      Aiden, Tyler, Grace, Megan, Andrew, and Lauren: you have shared some great Wonders of your own! We are happy to know that Mona Lisa inspired you to continue to think about her life, Leonardo Da Vinci’s other works and hist talent! We hope you stay warm in OHIO tonight! Make sure you’ve got some hot chocolate available, just in case you have a snow day! :)

    • Thanks for telling us, Wonder Friend Kennedy! We’re so happy you’re here today and we hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

  11. Dear Wonderoplis

    For tomorrow’s wonder I think it’s going to be a talent show. Speaking of a talent show I am going to do a talent show with my friends on Thursday! In art class there’s a Mona Lisa picture.

    From k.b

    • WOW, we’re so happy that you have a picture of Mona Lisa in your classroom, K.B.! We bet you were already familiar with Mona Lisa and her smile/frown! :)

      We Wonder what your’re performing at your talent show on Thursday? We bet you and your friends will do a spectacular job! Thank you for sharing your comment and guess, K.B.! See you soon! :)

  12. We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about being chosen at random, being chosen for president, an auction, to be chosen for an award like the best movie or chosen for a role in a production.

  13. We would have enjoyed a link to other famous paintings, such as “The Scream”. We also think you can buy a lot of paint for $700 million!

  14. Wonderopolis… so my son is feeling better and I’m back with my fabulous students. I shared with them the chat we had last night!

    Thoughts: I thought the Mona Lisa was kind of creepy because of the way she was staring at me. (Shalize) I wonder how many people attempted to damage, steal, or destroy the Mona Lisa. (Jake)

    Connections: This reminds me of when a student in our class, Lupe, told us all of Leondaro da Vinci. (Leslie) This reminds me of when I watched a movie that had a special vase surrounded by bullet proof glass. (Jaaron)

    Predictions: How do you become the chosen one? (Maria) How do you become a grammy winner? (Isaiah) Why was the goddess of Anubis so special? (Michelle) What is something that is considered so special? (Kathy)

    • Hey there, Mrs. Hess, we’re so proud of all your WONDERful students! They did a super job of commenting while you were out (we’re happy your son is feeling better)!

      Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ class, we are sending your virtual high fives! Shalize and Jake, we think this is one mysterious painting, too! We are glad it is safe in the Louvre so no one can touch it or vandalize it.

      Leslie and Jaaron, it sounds like you have both made great connections to lessons you’ve learned in class! We Wonder if Lupe is an art expert? We are glad you watched a video about the science behind bullet proof glass!

      Maria, Isaiah, Michelle and Kathy, thank you for sharing your SUPER guesses for the next Wonder of the Day®! We love when you use your creative imaginations! Nice work! :)

  15. Here are some of our first grade guesses for tomorrow’s wonder:

    Bald eagle
    Caldecott Award
    How an emperor is chosen
    Statue of Liberty
    Fame
    Eiffel Tower

    • We are so happy our Wonder Friends in Mrs. J’s Class have been using their Wonder brains to guess the next Wonder! Nice work! It’s cool that you have been thinking about the hint and using context clues to guess! Thank you for sharing your SUPER comment, Wonder Friends! See you soon! :)

  16. Thoughts: (Lucas) I think the Mona Lisa is an important part of Paris. (Aidan) I did not know that it was stolen and he tried to sell it. (Xavier) I did not know that the Mona Lisa was worth so much. (Shelby) I did not know that the real Mona Lisa had two sons.

    Connection: (Isabelle) I learned about the artist that made the Mona Lisa in the 3rd grade. (William) When I was around 2 years old, I went to France and saw the Mona Lisa. (Angel) I have a Mona Lisa shirt. (Logan) In art class last year there was a picture of the Mona Lisa on the wall.

    Prediction: (Shaviyana) How can you get a job? (Chris) Who made American Idol? (Tayler) Who made the game Hide and Seek? (Ben) Who invented the Purple Heart Award?

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Coleman’s Class! We learned all about Mona Lisa (the woman and the painting)! Lucas, Aidan, Xavier, and Shelby did a great job summarizing what they learned today!

      Isabelle, William, Angel, and Logan: we think it is great that each of you has a connection to the painting! Whether you saw it in class everyday or you visited in person, we’re happy to hear that you’re WONDERing about it!

      There are so many great guesses from Shaviyana, Chris, Tayler, and Ben! We’re smiling ear-to-ear! Thanks for visiting us! :)

  17. The Mona Lisa is $700 MILLION!!!!!!
    I only thought it was like $10 thousand!
    No way I am going to buy that painting, let alone have the money.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Nadia! We are impressed to learn that the Mona Lisa painting is worth $700 million, too! PHEW! We don’t think you’ll have to worry about finding the money to purchase it, since it is going to be in the French museum, the Louvre, for a very long time! This way, people from all over the world can visit to see the painting! Thanks for WONDERing with us! See you soon! :)

    • We learned something new today, too, Wonder Friend Gavin! It’s great that you can understand the title of Mona Lisa– it makes more sense now that we know her full name! We are happy you’ve been WONDERing with us about art and Da Vinci’s painting! We hope to see you soon! :)

  18. There is a book I read about the actual Mona Lisa. It is called “The Second Mrs. Giocanda”. It was a good book, and would be interesting for anyone 4th grade+.

    • What a great recommendation, Wonder Friend Jaclyn! We are so happy to know that you’ve been WONDERing about Mona Lisa already. We are going to have to head to the library to check out that book– thanks for telling us all about it! What a great Wonder Friend! Have a SUPER day! :)

  19. Wow, Mona Lisa is great! I usually don’t like art, but this is incredible!! From yesterday: My teacher said no problem because your the VERY best website to get the VERY best info!

    • We’re glad you’re back, Wonder Friend Deja! It sounds like you learned a lot from our artistic Wonder; nice work! We are also happy that your teacher has shared Wonderopolis with all of her awesome students! We think you’re lucky to have such a WONDERful teacher! Come back to visit us soon, Deja! Have a great day! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Matt Awesome! Thanks for sharing your comment today! We are glad you’ve been thinking about the painting of Mona Lisa! In our Wonder, you’ll learn about Leonardo Da Vinci and his many talents– he one of the reasons Mona Lisa is so famous! In addition to Da Vinci, we’re not really sure about Mona Lisa’s expression– is she smiling, grinning, smirking, frowning? :)

    • Hey there, Lauren! Leonardo Da Vinci, the artist, was commissioned (or hired) by Lisa’s husband to paint the portrait. Over the years different people have owned the painting, but it’s now located in the Louvre, a museum in Paris! We hope you’ll be able to visit it one day! :)

    • Well thank you so much, Wonder Friend Bethany! We’re glad you’re here! What did you learn from our artistic Wonder today? :)

    • Ha ha ha, you’ve got us laughing at Wonderopolis, Wonder Friend Tyler! We think you’re a knock-knock jock master! We LOVE your awesome and creative knock-knock joke in honor of Mona Lisa! We know you love to make us laugh and we Wonder how many knock-knock jokes you have written on you own? :)

  20. Thank you for the wonderful passage on the Mona Lisa it was very educational I didn’t have the chance to watch the video because it is blocked on my laptop but I will look it up on another computer to learn more about the Mona Lisa.

    • We are so glad that you’re going to continue to Wonder about Mona Lisa and Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexandria! We are so excited that you have visited us today and we look forward to seeing you soon! :)

  21. I would love to learn more about the Mona Lisa and her famous smile. ~Via

    The history of Mona Lisa is very interesting. I would also like to learn more. Please add more interesting facts on this topic and others. Thank you. ~Caroline

    Ok. We learned about Mona Lisa. She’s pretty cool.-Daryl

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Bob! It sounds like you, Via, Caroline and Daryl have been using your imaginations and creativity to Wonder about Mona Lisa! We hope you’ll all continue to Wonder about Mona Lisa, and the man who painted this very famous work of art– Leonardo Da Vinci! We hope you’re have a terrific day! :)

  22. When I read the title of this, I thought it said ” Who Has Mona Lisa “. I was like ” I’m pretty sure I don’t have Mona Lisa ” hahahaha!!!! I just wanted to share that!!! :)

    • Haha, you’ve got us chuckling here at Wonderopolis, Elizabeth! :)

      If you had Mona Lisa, we guess you would live at the Louvre, the museum in Paris where the Mona Lisa resides! What a cool place to live! :-)

  23. Hi Wonderopolis,
    I acually saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and it’s creepy because her eyes follow you everywhere! But it was very beautiful!

    • Hey there, PittM! Thanks for telling us about your cool adventure at the Louvre in Paris! What an amazing experience– to visit one of the most famous museums with some of the most famous art in the world! Thanks for telling us about what you saw and how you felt! The Mona Lisa is pretty cool! :)

    • That’s a great connection, Wonder Friend Alexis! Those books are written by author Dan Brown, and Leonardo DaVinci is an important part of those books and movies! What a SUPER comment! :)

    • We’re glad you are here today, ArtLover! Thanks for visiting us as we learn all about Mona Lisa and DaVinci! :)

    • We’re so happy you enjoyed our Wonder about Mona Lisa, Evan101! Isn’t art WONDERful? We Wonder if you like to paint, draw, or create art of your own? :)

    • How cool, Dakota! Mona Lisa is such an interesting piece of artwork to Wonder about– we’re glad you’ve been learning about her already! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who was Mona Lisa?
  • Where is the Mona Lisa?
  • Who painted the Mona Lisa?

Wonder Gallery

884Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Dive deeper into the world of art and priceless treasures by exploring one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Can you imagine a single painting being worth up to $700 million? What else could you buy with $700 million? What’s the most money you could ever imagine spending for a work of art? Are there things that you possess that you wouldn’t trade for any amount of money? Simple possessions, such as books or video games, probably aren’t priceless. But what about photographs? Or memories? How about your health? Take some time today to think about what is truly priceless to you!
  • How do the Mona Lisa’s caretakers make sure she is in tip-top shape? They give her a check-up, of course! Watch National Geographic’s Testing the Mona Lisa video to learn about how art experts and scientists use modern technology to make sure the world’s most famous and most valuable painting will be with us for many more years.
  • Ready to exercise your imagination? Take some time to picture Mona Lisa’s smile in your mind. Now answer the following question: what is she smiling about? Take some time to write a brief story explaining exactly why Mona Lisa is smiling. Does she know a secret? Perhaps she is remembering a humorous memory from her childhood? Maybe the painter had broccoli stuck in his teeth? Your story can be funny or serious. It’s up to you! Just use your imagination to come up with a story that explains what you think Mona Lisa is smiling about. When you’re finished, post your story to Facebook to share with all your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to read your story. We’re sure it’ll bring a smile to our face!

Still Wondering

In Science NetLinks’ Mona Lisa’s Smile Science Update, you’ll hear about how the Mona Lisa’s smile appears to change depending on where on her face you look.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at how special it can be to be chosen!

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