On a weekend trip to the lovely Paris, France, I had the opportunity to lock eyes with the enigmatic Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci painted her in the 16th century, and today, she is easily the most-visited painting in the world.
The Mona Lisa is not the largest, the most intricate, or the most beautiful painting at the Louvre. Funnily enough, she hangs across from the Louvre’s largest painting, The Wedding at Cana. This painting by Paulo Veronese is so large that it makes the Mona Lisa look like a postage stamp.
Many might say Mona is overrated; however, her stardom doesn’t spur from her appearance. The Mona Lisa is the world’s most famous painting because she was stolen by an Italian man named Vincenzo Peruggia in 1911. Peruggia strongly believed that da Vinci’s paintings should be displayed in an Italian museum, not a French museum. So one day he entered the Louvre during regular hours, hid in a broom closet, and then walked out with Mona hidden under his coat.
The robbery and manhunt evolved into a two-year advertisement for the Mona Lisa. The media broadcast her disappearance internationally, often calling her “the greatest portrait there ever was.” Within weeks, the whole world knew of this small and previously insignificant da Vinci painting. The Mona Lisa skyrocketed to a household name. Thousands visited the Louvre just to see the empty hooks where she once had hung. The Mona Lisa wasn’t recovered until 1913 when Peruggia attempted to sell her to an art dealer in Florence, Italy. He was arrested and sentenced to a mere seven months in jail, and the Mona Lisa was shipped back to her rightful place in Paris.
The robbery promoted Mona beyond just art. She became a legend, a story worth telling. Before she was stolen, she was a masterpiece. Upon her return, she was a global sensation. Now, she rests behind bullet-proof glass, between two security guards, and in front of hundreds of gawking tourists fascinated by her smile.
Justes Amador, José Luis. Men and Women Who Had No Monument. Guardaguras. Jan. 2015. guardagujas.lja.mx/2015/01/vicenzo-peruggia/ Accessed Oct. 13, 2016
Love, Mark. Painting Mona Lisa like Leonardo da Vinci: The Ultimate Challenge. Sep. 2015. marklovettstudio.com/painting-the-mona-lisa-commission/ Accessed Oct. 13, 2016
The world awaits…discover it.