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!