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Mona Lisa

Learn about the history and key elements of the Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings in the world. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user ∫∫ Greg Boyle  dG dB
    So who was the real life subject of 'Mona Lisa'?
    (193 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Chris
    Why is the Mona Lisa so famous? It's so small! Why, out of all the paintings, this one, is so famous? Many famous paintings use the same eye-catching painting technique, but why this?
    It's small, broken down, and Leonardo wanted to keep it a secret!
    Why, out of all the paintings, this is the most famous?
    (69 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Tracy
      The painting is famous because it was the first to exhibit the use of 1 point perspective (the background) which changed the history of art forever. In addition, at the time it was painted, in 1503, it was considered improper for a married woman to look directly at a man who was not her husband.....SCANDALOUS!
      (91 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Ari Mendelson
    Would it be possible for curators to scan the Mona Lisa into a computer and use it to change the colors to what they originally were? If so, how sure could we be that the product of this process would capture what was there when the painting was first made?
    (89 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Steven Zucker
      This is such an interesting idea and there has been work done in this area but then color is so very tricky. Think about just a few issues out of many more: What is the baseline color? In other words, What color are we looking for? Pigments change over even short periods of time. Would we assume we want the color Leonardo saw when the painting was still wet, he was certainly aware of the ways that color changes over time. Would this set of colors be those before or after vanish is applied? In what light? With the surrounding walls painted what color? And then there is an even more problematic issue. When we look at a painting we see reflected light. Computers produce images on a screen, a very different visual experience, or generate prints that have surfaces and inks that are again another thing entirely. We may be able to match a lost color but I think we need to be cautious about what that really means. We can try to understand the past but I am not sure we can retrive it.
      (100 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Brijesh Shah
    at Sal says it surprisingly small in real life. How small are we talking about? Can someone give comparative idea of sizes along with other famous paintings ?
    (26 votes)
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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Kate
    How can curators clean a painting without damaging it?
    (10 votes)
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    • piceratops tree style avatar for user Wedge's Wolf
      Just for the sake of the information, curators are not the people who clean the art pieces. They are very specialized people on different types of art, for example a specific period of art history, or on a painter, a technique, or even specialist on a certain painting school. Usually curators work in the museums to prepare the exhibitions, researching the best pieces and dealing with the art owners when the museum can have the piece. The people who clean the paintings are specialized in artistic techniques and its degradability over time or bad handling conditions, like humidity and heat over-exposure... these guys proficient on many artistic techniques but also know a lot about material science. The technique to clean a painting like this one is most probably full of procedures... because this one is an old oil based paint on a wooden plate, it is very dangerous to crack the paint layers in small pieces while using cloths and towels. Some paintings can only be cleaned with some delicate blowing machines and smooth brushes... ultra-gentle stuff. ;)
      (16 votes)
  • winston default style avatar for user Shona
    How can old paintings survive for a long time?
    (6 votes)
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    • old spice man blue style avatar for user ahenzinger
      1) In the 16th century, paint was oil mixed with pigments: the oil helped conserve the colors and make sure they did not fade away.
      2) The painting was subjected to Restoration in order to conserve its true colors, get rid of mushrooms, preserve it for future generations...
      3) In museums, paintings are stored in precise conditions to prevent the deterioration of the colors or development of microorganisms for example: the humidity and temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius)
      (15 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Prathamesh
    Three quick things I would like to ask-
    1) What's the significance of headband like line on her forehead @ ?
    2) There's lot that's been said about her smile and also her brow-ridge both signify different emotions, can any artist explain the significance of her face?
    3) In the movie 'Da Vinci Code' this painting was shown in the museum. Is there any real connection to the Code or any such secret which the painting is hiding?
    (9 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Mihail Afanasiev
      Leonardo will always attract seekers!
      When I was in Paris 2005, I could not visit the Louvre. But the Louvre came with sound recording equipment, which were kindly provided by the French. Found the "Mona Lisa" and began recording background sound created numerous visitors who came to see the masterpiece. The logic was simple. Allow myself to be noted that any masterpiece has the property of highly structured information field. Man - this is also, at its basis, the field structure. There is a contact of two field structures – human and masterpiece. This is probably the power of art. The sounds published the people who were in the masterpiece (talk, the shuffling of feet, etc.) were very valuable to me, they were correlated associated with him. Subjecting these records complicated transformation process, I managed to get some incredible sound. Many are led into shock - these sounds there is a clear identification with the portrait of "Mona Lisa." Similar records I've made in the famous sculpture of Venus. As a result, based on these records, I had three works - "Knowledge", "Flow" and "Communication".
      MONA LISA_VENUS(Опыт работы с шедеврами) .avi
      Structure of presented video: sound background at Mona Lisa – result of transformational processing of a background, a sound background at Venus – result of transformational processing of a background, a work “Knowledge” fragment (the transformed sounds are used only).
      Full details can be found on my master class
      Academia of Music, Kishinev MOLDOVA http://studiomusicnew.blogspot.com
      ( Sorry, Google translation)
      (1 vote)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Hugo Yu
    So in the video at -, they said the "Mono Lisa" was stolen, right?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf blue style avatar for user sreashi
    what is the meaning of L.H.O.O.Q written under the image of Mona Lisa ?
    (1 vote)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user ruwaidah9
    why was Mona Lisa so popular
    (2 votes)
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    • mr pink red style avatar for user WallAvi
      Some possible reasons could include.

      1. It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci
      2. It was involved in a "high profile" theft
      3. It was "recovered" from that theft
      4. It received and receives a lot of media attention/hype/publicity
      5. It receives most of the attention from professionals who also are interested in attention
      6. The novelist Dan Brown used it as a subject in one of his books
      7. Part of the ongoing publicity is to enhance "the mystery" of the painting so that people will continue to flock to the museum and France and bring their $$ with them.

      etc. etc. etc.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

(gentle music) - We're in the single most crowed room in the Louvre but for good reason. This is the room that holds the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Without a doubt, the most famous painting in the world. - Of course it's her smile that's so famous today and it certainly is a smile that doesn't clearly tell us what she's feeling. It's ambiguous. - And I think it allows people to read into it in any way that they prefer. - Sigmund Freud for example, saw a combination of maternal gaze but also a gaze that was that was flirtatious and I think I do see both of those aspects here. - This is a portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant and as we look out at the see of people taking selfies in front of the Mona Lisa, it's good to remember that only the elite could have their portrait painted during the Renaissance. - This was an expensive proposition and of course, you'd have to go and sit for the artist many times so that he could capture your likeness. - Because they were expensive, they were reserved for kings and queens and the nobility. What we see during the Renaissance, is the growth of the merchant class and the fact that a wealthy merchant would hire Leonardo to paint his wife's portrait, is a reminder of the fortunes that are being made by traders, by bankers and others during the Renaissance. - Well, especially in the city of Florence, which was such an economic hub during the Renaissance and we know in the fact that the patron of this painting was a cloth merchant. - This painting has quite a number of innovations, but one of the most important is that it's a half length. Generally, portraits were bust, that is from the chest up. - This was an incredibly influential, new formula for the portrait. - If you think about the standard form of the portrait, before this with the figure in profile, bust length. It's a very static pose, very formal, very stiff, but as soon as Leonardo turned the head toward us, position the shoulders three quarter toward us also, and included the hands, suddenly, we had an image of a figure that was much more natural, someone who you could imagine having a conversation with. Portraits that included a background and that also included the hands did exist in the Northern Renaissance. But this is a new formula for Italy and will be tremendously influential with artists like Raphael and others. - Another very influential aspect of this painting is a technique that Leonardo employed which is known as Sfumato. That simply means smoke, and what it refers to is slightly hazy quality that Leonardo introduces. To remove the sometimes, sharp quality that existed in early Renaissance paintings, where each object looks too isolated. It's an atmospheric quality that creates a sense of unity throughout the painting. - And makes the figure appear to almost emerge out of the darkness. So we see that she's seated on a chair in a low jar, open portrait. And we see on either side of her what look like the base of two columns. We don't know if the painting was cut down and there were originally full columns on either side of her, but we do know that early copies of this painting do show those columns on either side of the figure. - There's a lot about this painting that we don't fully understand. This was a commission and yet Leonardo kept the painting, he never delivered it to the man who commissioned it and later in Leonardo's life when he moved to France, he brought the painting with him which is why it is now in the Louvre. One question which I think we should address, is why is this the most famous image in the world? - Well, it reminds me of another very famous image of a woman that is very ambiguous and mysterious and that's the woman with the pearl earring by Vermeer from more than a century later. Perhaps, our culture has some fascination with images of mysterious women. - I think that's probably an important part of it, but then I think fame grows on itself. In 1911, the painting was stolen and it was headlines around the world and that accelerated it's fame and it has become the subject of numerous other paintings, by artists diverse as Marcel Duchamp or Andy Warhol. This raises an important issue, here's a painting that was made for a private home, to exist in a domestic interior to celebrate a man's wife, or to celebrate a specific occasion, perhaps the birth of a child or the purchasing of a new home. But here it is instead, in a huge gallery with hundreds of people. A painting that exists in million of multiples around the world. It's such an unexpected fate for what Leonardo surely saw, as a relatively minor commission. (lively music)