Mona Lisa (1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci - c.1503 - c.1519

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Artwork Information

TitleMona Lisa
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Datec.1503 - c.1519
MediumOil on Panel (Poplar Wood)
Dimensions77 x 53 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationLouvre, Paris, France
Location Created Florence, Italy

About Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa is an oil-on-panel masterpiece painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506. The painting was created in Florence, Italy, and depicts a woman believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It is currently located at the Louvre Museum, in France.

One of the most notable features of Mona Lisa is the mastery of sfumato, a technique involving subtle tonal gradations in color that creates an almost hazy or smoky effect. This technique gives the painting its mysterious aura.

Mona Lisa’s enigmatic expression has received considerable attention over time. Her smile seems elusive yet captivating at the same time, radiating mystery, sensuality and contentment – all achieved through sfumato. Many theories have been proposed about her smile and her identity; however, it remains one of the most debated topics even to this day.

One unique feature of Mona Lisa is its imaginary landscape seen through ethereal arches and columns in misty blues and greens which lead around corners while balancing haloed shapes above her head. This creates an atmosphere that both soothes and captivates viewers.

Mona Lisa is a cult work, which became even more popular following its theft in 1911. It has been the subject of several critical essays, literary and film adaptations, advertising and pop music as well as creative parodies and outrages.

What is Depicted in the Mona Lisa?

Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait of a seated woman, believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the rich cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The Italian title La Gioconda derives from her husband’s surname. In the Mona Lisa, Leonardo depicts a lady sitting in an elevated position inside a loggia. Her arms are elegantly crossed, and hands folded. She wears a thin dark dress with a wide neckline on the chest characterized by a profile with delicate golden knots. The head is covered by a transparent veil that falls over the shoulders in a drape. Her hair is loose and combed with a central scrimmage. The curls fall over her neck. The painting embodies the characteristics of virtuous women of the XVth and XVIth centuries. The position of the hands, with the right hand resting on the left, symbolizes for some scholar such as Claire Farago (1999) marital fidelity.

According to historian Frank Zoellner (1994), the clothing of Mona Lisa reflects the somber and chaste style of Spanish fashion that arrived in Florence at the beginning of the 16th century. The face of Mona Lisa presents a determined and elusive expression, characterized by her famous enigmatic smile. The smile expresses harmony and balance with the scenery behind her. Behind the Mona Lisa, Leonardo depicts a landscape with rivers, lakes, valleys and blue-peaked mountains. According to some scholars, the parapet where the lady originally must have been framed by two lateral columns, cut from the canvas at an unspecified date.

The painting is structured by a division between the foreground space occupied by the human figure and the natural landscape in the background. It recalls the motif of the portrait in nature, already experimented by Leonardo da Vinci in the former painting Portrait of Ginevra Benci (1475).

Who is depicted the Mona Lisa?

The woman depicated in the Mona Lisa is Lisa di Antonmaria Gherardini, also known as “Lisa del Giocondo” (June 15, 1479 – July 15, 1542). She was a Florentine noblewoman and a member of the aristocratic Gherardini family, landowners in the Chianti region of Florence, Italy.  She was the wife of Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo, a cloth and silk merchant who later became a high-ranking official of the Florentine republic. She married him young in 1495 and had five children, leading a wealthy life in a family of art patrons. Universally known as ‘Mona Lisa’, the appellation ‘Monna’ is a diminutive of ‘Madonna’, derived from the Latin word ‘Mea domina’, which today would have the same meaning as ‘my lady’.

The subject of Mona Lisa has been identified by art historians based on testimonies of historians of the time. The first source was an account from October 1517 by Antonio de Beatis. The biographer, on a visit to Cardinal Louis of Aragon, mentioned a painting by Leonardo ‘depicting a noble Florentine lady’. According to the scholar Kenneth Clark, the painting must have been the Mona Lisa.

The primary source for the identification is the 16th century account by the biographer Giorgio Vasari. Vasari, in his account of the lives of painters, artists and architects (Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori, 1550) mentioned Mona Lisa as the wife of Francesco del Giocondo and approximately dated it between 1503 and 1506. Giorgio Vasari also described in his writings Leonardo da Vinci’s ability to create ‘art capable of imitating nature’, referring to the painter’s precise anatomical and psychological investigation of his subjects.

Throughout the centuries, scholars have advanced various hypotheses on the identity of the Mona Lisa. They fueled suggestive legends without academic foundation: the portrait of another noblewoman such as Isabella d’Este or Caterina Sforza, Leonardo’s supposed mother, Caterina Buti del Vacca, or even a self-portrait in a female version of Leonardo himself. However, the accredited identification with Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo is corroborated by a discovery in 2005. This is a handwritten comment by Agostino Vespucci, a collaborator at the Chancellery of Florence, in the margin of a manuscript held by the library of Heidelberg University. The note, dated October 1503, states that Leonardo was currently working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

What is Mona Lisa Wearing?

Mona Lisa dresses in 16th-century period gowns. She wears a sophisticated robe with small spiral patterns and gold thread embroidery, which leaves her neckline uncovered. She is seated three-quarters, leaning on the armrest of a pozzetto chair, typically Renaissance. She sits in a loggia, a space with columns and a parapet. Behind her, Leonardo da Vinci painted a naturalistic landscape.

What Location is Depicted in the Mona Lisa?

The location depicted in the Mona Lisa is speculated by some scholars to be the Val di Chiana, in Tuscany, Italy, although other theories exist.

Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, architect, scientist and polymath who in the early 16th century was devoting much of his studies to the anatomy and geological aspects of the Arno Valley. For this reason, many critics are convinced the landscape of the Mona Lisa is not an invented or idealized view. There are speculations about its precise location.

Some historians think it is located in Tuscany, specifically, in the Val di Chiana, as an article in the journal Cartographica testifies. Val di Chiana is a Tuscan valley in the province of Arezzo crossed by the river Arno. The bridge in the lower right-hand corner of the painting, characterized by its arches and ancient Romanesque style, may represent the Buriano bridge, still present today. The eroded peaks are reminiscent of the gullies of the Pratantico Gorge. Leonardo da Vinci frequented the watershed of the Val di Chiana and may have studied the view from the village of Quarata where there was a castle at his time.

Other studies support the Tuscan theory, and locate the gorge crossed by the Arno at Signa, a town just outside Florence and close to Leonardo’s birthplace, Vinci. A study conducted in 2023 by writer Silvano Vincenti proposes the suggestion that the bridge is the ancient Etruscan-Roman Romito bridge, a few kilometers west of Arezzo. Only one arch remains today of the original four portrayed in the painting. The winding course of the Arno, the presence of mountains and Leonardo’s frequenting of the Valdarno would support his theory.

According to other studies, the location of the Mona Lisa would instead be in northern Italy and not Tuscany. Leonardo spent time in Milan at the court of the Sforza family between 1482 and 1489 and between 1506 and 1513. The landscape of the Mona Lisa, according to art critic Roberto Longhi, could be a pre-Alpine landscape in Lombardy, around Lecco and Mount Resegone, or on Lake Iseo with the mountainous profile of the Corna Trentapassi. Other scholars, such as Carla Glori (2011), identify the location of the Mona Lisa with the ancient feud of Bobbio in the Trebbia Valley. The village near Piacenza was then under the rule of the Sforza family and the arched bridge may have been the Gobbo bridge.

Finally, a study published in 2012 and conducted by the geomorphologist Olivia Nesci and photographer Rosetta Borchia, state that the Mona Lisa background is Montefeltro, seen from the heights of Valmarecchia. The river could be the confluence of two rivers, the Senatello and Marecchia in the historic region of Duchy of Urbino, embracing Marche, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany areas.

Mona Lisa Artwork Analysis

The figure of the Mona Lisa shows interest in the individual characteristics of human beings of the Renaissance period. It is accompanied by numerous anatomical studies. It is a portrait of great psychological intensity and technical ability. Leonardo reached this level through the technique of sfumato: a soft use of fine shading, which allows a synthesis of sitter and landscape, almost as if body and landscape were merging.

The landscape is also made with sfumato. It depicts an area dotted with hills, cliffs, and mountains. On the left, a road meanders between rocky heights. On the right, an arched bridge crosses a river that springs from the lake. The landscape may harken back to the painter’s childhood: many scholars speculate it is a Tuscan foreshortening, possibly the point where the river Arno crosses the countryside of Arezzo. However, it is more likely to be an idealized landscape, a mixture of different landscapes seen by the artist in his travels.

The smile of the protagonist is another ambiguous element in Mona Lisa’s analysis. Leonardo captured a fleeting expression, modelling the face with imperceptible transitions from shadow to light. Also, the gaze is mysterious: seems to follow the viewer, with a serene and determined expression, aware that she is being watched by the audience. The portrait seems almost lifelike and alive thanks to Leonardo da Vinci’s technical skills.

History of the Mona Lisa

The history of the Mona Lisa begins in Tuscany in the early 16th century Florence, with a commission from the wealthy silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The patron commissioned Leonardo to paint his wife, Lisa Gherardini “Del Giocondo”. Scholar Giuseppe Pallanti has conducted extensive research in the archives of Florence to reconstruct the family’s ties with Leonardo da Vinci. Francesco del Giocondo had contact with Leonardo because of his father, Ser Piero da Vinci, who was a notary; he could also have contacts with the church of Santissima Annunziata, where Leonardo stayed in 1500 on his return from Milan.

According to biographer Giorgio Vasari and his account of artists’ lives (1550), began the painting around 1503. Vasari is a fairly reliable source, since he resided in Florence like the Giocondo family and in the 1540s, when he began his biography, Francesco and Lisa had recently died (Lisa in 1542). The story of Leonardo’s painting was well-known in the Florentine community. According to a note found in the library of Heidelberg and manuscripted by biographer Agostino Vespucci, the precise chronology dates the beginning of the work to October 1503. Leonardo lingered over the portrait until 1516, adding continuous retouches. He never delivered it to the patron, taking it with him to France and leaving it unfinished.

The history of the Mona Lisa was thoroughly investigated in 1999 by the scholar Bertrand Jestaz, who explained why Leonardo took the Mona Lisa with him to France in 1516. Leonardo may have given the painting as a gift to King François I in gratitude for the stay he had offered him in France, or he may have simply sold it together with other works for a considerable sum. Jestaz has tracked down in the National Archives in Paris a document proving the payment of a sum of 2604 French lira in 1518 from King François I to one of Leonardo’s most faithful pupils, Salaì.

The Mona Lisa thus remained in the French collections. According to scholars such as Abbé Guilbert, it was part of the decorative apparatus of the Château de Fontainebleau during the XVIIth century. In 1685, Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. In 1707, following the French Revolution, it became part of the national collections of the Louvre Museum.

Relocations and Loans of the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa was officially removed from the museum in the 18th century when Napoleon Bonaparte had it placed in his bedroom until 1804. It was relocated during the Franco-Prussian War, when it was sheltered in a hidden site, and during the first and second World Wars. In particular, during the Second World War, the Louvre’s director Jacques Jaujard placed Mona Lisa as early as 1939 in the French countryside: first in the castle of Chambord, then in Amboise, then in the abbey of Loc-Dieu, the Ingres Museum in Montauban and Chambord again, before ending up directly under the bed of the Louvre’s conservator in the castle of Montal. Mona Lisa returned to Paris in 1945.

In the second half of the 20th century, the Mona Lisa left the Louvre to be loaned to the United States. In 1963, it was exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, received by John Fitzgerald Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and on 7 February 1963 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. According to Artslife, on a record-breaking day, 63,675 people were able to see the painting.

The last ‘exit’ of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre dates back to 1974, when it was first exhibited at the National Museum in Tokyo (Japan), amidst a thousand protests, and then to Moscow (Russia). In 2019, the former president of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez (president of the Louvre from 2013 to 2022) on the occasion of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death stated that Mona Lisa is too fragile to face any more travel or loans in the future.

The Theft of the Mona Lisa

The fame of the Mona Lisa increased following its theft on 22 August 1911 by the Italian Vincenzo Peruggia. French newspapers wondered about the possible culprits for a long time: initially suspicion fell on a group of workers who were working in the museum; other headlines suggested the implication of artists such as Pablo Picasso or the poet Apollinaire; others attributed responsibility to a coup d’état by the German government.

The Mona Lisa remained a fugitive until 1913, when it was found in Florence. The magazine Cronaca delle Belle Arti reported on the circumstance: on 24 November, a Florentine antiquarian, Alfredo Geri, received a letter, signed “Leonardo V.”, in which he was offered to buy the Mona Lisa, “as revenge to the first French empire that had stolen Italian masterpieces”. The antiquarian pointed it out to the director of the Uffizi, Giovanni Poggi, and together they agreed to meet with ‘Leonardo V.’ at Geri’s antique shop. On 11 December 1911, they met Vincenzo Peruggia, the culprit of the theft.

Peruggia (1881 – 1925) was a decorator who had the naive idea of returning to Italy the masterpiece that he thought had been stolen by Napoleon, although it was Leonardo himself who had transported it with him to France. The director of the Uffizi, having verified that it was the real Mona Lisa, notified the fact to authorities, and the prefect arrested the thief.

During his interrogation, Peruggia reported that he had worked at the Louvre: he assembled the case that held the painting. When he decided to plan the theft, it was easy for him to enter the museum because he knew how to evade surveillance. The trial took place in June 1914 in Florence. In the meantime, the Mona Lisa had already returned to the Louvre. Peruggia was granted the mitigating factor of insanity and was sentenced to one and a half years in prison.

For more info see the full article on the Mona Lisa Theft.

Conservation of the Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa is a work in a good state of conservation but with intrinsic fragile properties. Conservators have implemented the following conversation strategies to preserve the painting.

Conservative Interventions on the Wooden Panel

Leonardo da Vinci painted it on a thin poplar wood panel, a common material in 16th century Florence. The wood, which is extremely sensitive to variations in humidity, has deteriorated over years. He has become slightly convex and has even cracked. On the front, an 11 cm crack runs from the top of the panel and stops at the level of the forehead. On the reverse, this crack was previously welded by placing two butterfly-shaped inserts and pieces of canvas. The frame constrains the natural movements of the wooden panel, causing cracks (in technical terms: Craquelures) that are very visible today.

Non-original Painting Layers

Mona Lisa is covered with numerous layers of thick, non-uniform and oxidized varnish. They were applied after the artist’s death, during rough restoration operations. These non-original layers have aged and now form a yellow filter that alter the original color palette. Particularly, the original blue of the sky turns into green and lower parts of the composition are darker than originally.

Glass Case and Damage from Vandalism

The painting is now preserved behind an unbreakable glass case in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. In addition, to prevent deterioration caused by the numerous photographic flashes that affect the work, an Italian-made glass protection has been inserted. The glass is also resistant to various types of explosives and any corrosive agent with which Mona Lisa may come into contact from vandalism.

Scientific Analysis of the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa has been subject of numerous scientific analyses, including instances of X-Ray and Reflectography analysis, and Pigment analysis.  Read below for more info:

X-Rays and Infrared Reflectography

X-rays reflectography has enabled scholars to gain a better understanding of the composition of the portrait and different retouches. According to Louvre official artwork description, infrared vision reveal that Mona Lisa is seated on a chair with a rounded back supported by balusters, known as a pozzetto. The seat is almost perpendicular to us, in front of a small balustrade decorated with rectangular moldings. The floor of the room is bathed in light from outside. At the ends of the balustrade are two columns framing a vast landscape of mountain ranges and rivers. To the left, a winding road crosses the mountains, while to the right, a bridge crosses the river.

Infrared reflectography image also clearly reveal Mona Lisa’s clothing. The Mona Lisa is wearing a dress that is probably dark green, with removable yellow sleeves. Her dress is covered by a large veil of transparent silk attached to her chest with embroidered gold threads that form geometric interlacing patterns. The veil is pulled slightly up over her right elbow and folded over her left shoulder. Her head is also covered by a transparent veil that descends over her shoulders. Contrary to what has sometimes been written, her hair is not completely loose. Only a few strands fall to the sides of her face, the rest being held back in a bun and held back by a cap, the outline of which is visible in infrared reflectography.

Scholars have also investigated the presence of the columns in the Mona Lisa with the analytical and diagnostic support of X-rays. According to art historian Federico Zeri, the Da Vinci work was mutilated, i.e. deprived of the two columns that clasped its sides to make it a pendant of a smaller painting. This thesis was shared by Kenneth Clark, Richard Friedenthal and SergeBramly. However, this down-sizing was denied by the conservators of the Louvre. In 2004, a group of 39 international experts carried out a series of scientific examinations on Mona Lisa. The aforementioned investigations revealed that the small portions of the columns on the painting were superimposed on the background of the sky and mountains.

Pigment Analysis of the Mona Lisa

In 2023, the Journal of the American Chemical Society published a study about X-ray and Infrared Microanalyses on Mona Lisa revealing details about Leonardo da Vinci’s palette and pigments. The study led by Université Paris-Saclay, scientist Victor Gonzalez and France’s National Center for Scientific Research, reveals a mix of rare chemical compounds in Leonardo’s pigment preparation. A rare and unstable chemical compound called plumbonacrite has been found on the underpainting of Mona Lisa. According to researchers, Leonardo used thick layers of lead white pigment, mixing his oil with lead monoxide (PbO). The compound is now known to be toxic, but he probably used it to cover the poplar wood panel. Leonardo’s scientific research on pigments surprised scholars as traces of plumbonacrite and the entire process are not found in other works by painters of his period.

Vandalism of the Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa has been the target of numerous acts of vandalism, fueling its popularity and deriving from its iconic value. According to surrealist artist Salvador Dalì, Mona Lisa has an intrinsic power, “unique in all art history, to provoke the most violent and different kinds of aggressions.”

Mona Lisa has suffered several attempted damages. Among the most relevant are:

  • In 1911, it was stolen by Italian decorator Vincenzo Peruggia to apparently bring her back to Italy. It was found years later in Florence (see Theft section).
  • In 1956, a rock was thrown to Mona Lisa by Hugo Unjaga Villegas, a Bolivian man.  The same year the Mona Lisa was sprayed with acid, causing minor damage to the lower part of the painting.
  • In 1974, during the loan in Tokyo, Mona Lisa was sprayed with red paint by Tomoko Yonezu, a Japanese woman in an apparent protest for disabled peoples rights.
  • In 2009, Mona Lisa was hit by a teacup by a Russian woman in an apparent protest against French authority.
  • In 2022, Mona Lisa was hit by a cake by a man dressed as a woman and using a wheelchair.  It was an apparent protest for the environment.
  • In 2024, Mona Lisa was hit by a soup by climate activists associated with the environmentalist group Riposte Alimentaire.  The painting was not damaged.  This vandalism was part of a series of similar attacks on famous artwork, including works by Monet, Munch, and Van Gogh.

Mona Lisa Painting Techniques

Leonardo da Vinci perfected his oil painting techniques by introducing three major innovations: sfumato, chiaroscuro, and aerial perspective (or atmospheric perspective).  Read below for more information on these three techniques:


Sfumato is a of blurring effect of the outlines of figures, modulating the shades and use of colors, which tended to subtly blend together. The sfumato technique was widely used and popularized by Leonardo.  The face of Mona Lisa is constructed by imperceptible shifts from shadow to light, created by thin layers of glaze (oily layers barely charged with pigment) and blurring the contours of the figure. This blurring effect is called “sfumato” and allows Leonardo to confer greater uniformity to his work. It links the body of the Mona Lisa to the landscape behind her in a fluid manner.


The technique of chiaroscuro is skillfully used by Leonardo in the Mona Lisa. Chiaroscuro allows to delineate volumes and highlight forms. The effect of volume is achieved through variations of bright and dark tones, lights and shadows. For example, there is a strong chiaroscuro between the clothes and the face of the Mona Lisa and to delineate the face, hands, and clothes.

Aerial Perspective

The aerial perspective (or atmospheric perspective) is a technical innovation experimented by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a technique similar to sfumato, but essentially applied to landscape, in particular to the rendering of the distance of objects and space representation. Aerial perspective studies variations in light intensity and tonal gradations in relation to distance: as the distance from the observation point increases, the contours become more blurred, the visual colors less and less sharp and their range tends towards blue. Leonardo consequently depicted the landscape in Mona Lisa with colors that became increasingly blurred as their distance increased, making those in the foreground sharper.

Leonardo’s studies on aerial perspective were based on the empirical assumption that air is not a completely transparent medium but has its own thickness that influences vision. According to Leonardo’s studies of optics, moreover, air is denser (“one air is thicker than the others”) the closer it is to the ground, while it becomes more transparent with height. This aspect evident in Leonardo’s depiction of mountainous reliefs.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Mona Lisa

Read below for some frequently asked questions about the Mona Lisa:

Why is the Mona Lisa so Famous?

The Mona Lisa has been a successful artwork since its era, thanks to the description given by biographer Giorgio Vasari in 1550 in his ‘Lives of the Most Excellent Painters’. Her myth grew as the painting represented a model for portraiture in the centuries and more than a hundred replicas can be counted. In addition to the replicas, Mona Lisa became popular as she was often reproduced or altered in other works of art with parodistic intent; it was featured in advertisements, literary works and films, helping to establish her as an iconic image (see Parodies, Imitations, and Replicas). Its fame also grew following the 1911 theft by Vincenzo Peruggia (see Theft) and the numerous acts of vandalism committed precisely because of its iconic value in the history of world culture (see Vandalism).

Was Mona Lisa a real person?

Mona Lisa represents a real-life 16th century noblewoman, Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine textile merchant Francesco del Giocondo (see Who Is Depicted in the Mona Lisa?)

In which Museum is the Mona Lisa preserved?

Mona Lisa is preserved in Louvre Museum (Paris).

Size and Dimensions of the Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa is 79.4 cm high and 53.4 cm wide. Leonardo da Vinci wanted to represent the model on a natural scale.

Did Mona Lisa Have Eyebrows?

The Mona Lisa appears to have no eyebrows. A first explanation may be the fashion of the time that would have required ladies to shave their faces completely. In the Renaissance, in fact, a high forehead would have been considered very elegant, prompting women to shave their facial hair entirely. Leonardo da Vinci, who studied facial anatomy and physiognomy in an accurate manner, could therefore have adhered to the model’s real face. Other studies carried out in 2007 through infrared analysis, reveal the original color of the painting and a drawing of original eyebrows.

How Much is the Mona Lisa Worth Today?

The Mona Lisa is part of the heritage of the French State and has an inestimable cultural and identity value for the nation. It is not, therefore, a work of art that can really be valued on the art market. The magazine Kunstloft tried to make a plausible appraisal, considering factors such as artistic relevance, rarity, state of preservation and history. On 14 December 1962, the value of the Mona Lisa was estimated at $100 million, which is equivalent to approximately $900 million in 2023.

What Type of Art is the Mona Lisa?

The Mona Lisa is a Renaissance painting, realized with oil paint on a poplar panel. It is one of the most relevant models of Renaissance portraiture, due to its psychological and anatomical investigation and the use of innovative Leonardesque techniques, such as sfumato and aerial perspective.

Is Mona Lisa Copyrighted or Public Domain?

Mona Lisa image is in the public domain. It is not subject to copyright law because Leonardo da Vinci died more than 70 years ago.

What is the the Mona Lisa Effect?

Mona Lisa is famous for her enigmatic smile and magnetic gaze, known as the ‘Mona Lisa Effect’. According to a widespread belief, the noblewoman’s gaze follows the viewer as he or she moves while observing the work. Studies conducted by experienced perceptual psychologists to scientifically determine the viewing angle of the portrayed woman reveal that the phenomenon exists but not to such an extent. Mona Lisa with her smile and her gaze that creates a dialogue with the viewer represents more a feeling of harmonious concordance between the human being and the surrounding nature.

Related Artworks

Leonardo da Vinci was particularly talented in creating lifelike half-length portraits. Each portrait was accompanied by numerous preliminary drawings. In addition to Mona Lisa, Leonardo previously painted other famous female portraits such as Portrait of Ginevra Benci (c. 1474), the Lady with an Ermine (1489) and La Belle Ferronnière (1490-1496).

Mona Lisa also served as a model for other works by Renaissance masters, such as Portrait of Maddalena Doni (c. 1506) by Raphael, which follows its format. Because of its iconic value, Mona Lisa was also the subject of irreverent artistic operations during the historical avant-garde movements of the 20th century that sought to break with artistic tradition. The best-known example is L.H.O.O.Q by Marcel Duchamp (1919), the famous Mona Lisa with a mustache.

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