Every year, six million visitors from all around the world travel to the Louvre museum in Paris to stare in wonder at Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait, the Mona Lisa. The portrait took da Vinci four years to complete.
Many questions have been raised over the years regarding the true identity of the lady in the portrait. The Italians call her La Gioconda, which means “the light-hearted woman.” One popular theory suggests that the lady is the Duchess of Milan. Da Vinci was the family painter for eleven years. Other researchers have said that the painting could represent a lover of Giuliano de Medici’s. A more recent survey concludes that the Mona Lisa is the feminine version of da Vinci himself. Despite the above theories, it is widely accepted that the portrait shows Lisa Gherardini, the third wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.
Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile has been the source of inspiration for many and a cause of desperation in others. When discussing the mystery behind the smile, art experts often refer to a painting technique called sfumato, which was developed by da Vinci. In Italian, sfumato means “vanished” or “smoky,” implying that the portrait is ambiguous, leaving its interpretation to the viewers’ imagination.
In 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre museum. Two years later the painting was recovered in Italy. A man called Vincenzo Perugia was arrested as he tried to sell the work to the Uffizi Gallery. He admitted to the theft, explaining he didn’t believe that a painting by such an important Italian artist should be kept in France.