Have you seen the famous painting of Mona Lisa? Whenever you see that painting does any question come in your mind that why is it so famous? The story of Mona Lisa is full of surprises. In Italian, Mona Lisa means ‘My lady’.
It was painted by the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci. He started this painting in 1503, when he was 51 years old. In 1519 he passed away without completing the painting. So it is also believed that the painting is still incomplete.
Secrets of Mona Lisa
The painting is small with the sombre color. Mona Lisa which seems ordinary today was revolutionary in the early 16th century. Prior portrait mainly consisted of profiles but pose of Mona Lisa established a new style of portrait painting. Because at that time most of the portraits was of full length but after Leonardo intimate cropping, it was imitated by other painters.
Its color is so blend. It gives a semi translucent smoky feel and gives the painting a sense of movement, the technique is also used in the background to create a sense of harmony between the sitter and the landscape. This was completely a new technique added a sense of realism that was rarely seen at that time. Background becomes hazier and more out of focus as distance increases.
She also has a mysterious smile if you look at her face, she barely seems to be smiling at all. Her mouth is closed, the corners of her mouth are only turned up slightly. A recent article suggests that it is actually our peripheral vision which perceives a smile that’s larger than it is when we’re looking at her eyes but then when we look back down to her mouth she doesn’t seems to be smiling at all, so it was a major breakthrough that added to the realism of the painting.
Perhaps another facial feature which is even more interesting is her eyebrows or lack of eyebrows. Some researchers say it was a fashion of women to shave their eyebrows at that time. And some says it was incomplete painting as Leonardo died before completing it.
Why Mona Lisa is so famous?
Now if you think Mona Lisa is famous just because she is somehow ten times better than every other painting or because it was made by Leonardo da Vinci. Actually her story reveals something more interesting, something about how art breaks into wider culture.
Even at her peak, Mona Lisa was just a painting, not the famous painting of all time. So what’s all brouhaha about it?
It’s not really about her mystifying gaze and a quirky smile. But it’s her disappearance that made her so famous. Yeah.. you read right it’s her disappearance. The fame came from her spectacular theft.
Over the 300 next years after Leonardo, the painting was hung quietly in the French palaces, royal bathroom. And lastly it was in The Louvre, a museum in Paris.
In 1911 during the middle of the day, it was stolen. It took The Louver a day to even notice, but the media didn’t have as subdued of a reaction. It was pandemonium and Paris was in uproar. The Louvre was closed for a week. The police started investigating people everywhere in the city. It became the burning topic when the police suspected and interrogated Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous artists in the world. But Pablo was innocent.
The painting went missing for two years. Thousand went to The Louver just to see the empty hooks hanging on the wall. The robbery and manhunt were like a two year ad campaign for the painting. After the two years of mystery, thief turns out to be a janitor who worked at the museum. He was an Italian and thought the painting should be in an Italian museum. He was caught and the painting returned to The Louvre. From that day forward, Mona Lisa became the darling of the art world. By then she became the most famous painting in the world, in part to her absence. Everyone wanted to see the famous painting of Leonardo.
When Mona Lisa was stolen, she left a masterpiece. After her recovery and a two week tour in Florence. She returned to The Louvre, something bigger than just an art. She was a story and a legend and prominently shown in every paper that reported her recovery. It was a big reveal after two years of suspense. From that she attracted presidential speeches and parodies. And the momentum never stopped. All this make most people forget why it’s famous in the first place.
The reason why Mona Lisa was so famous not because of how it was painted but because of its mysterious story.