Try visiting late in the evening or during lunch hours. The queues can get very long!
The fame of the Mona Lisa only really began in the late 1860s. Critics, reexamining the past, acclaimed Da Vinci’s work to be a masterpiece of the Renaissance and its fame naturally grew. Then, in 1911, it was stolen from its place in the Louvre and became a sensation overnight. The Louvre remained closed all week whilst the investigation continued to no avail: the painting remained lost for the next two years.
During this time, it became legendary. Huge numbers of fakes sprung up in the US and Europe. Eventually its Italian thief, Peruggia, was caught whilst trying to sell it to a gallerist in Florence. He was a patriot who believed it should be on display in its creator’s homeland, not France.
In 2012, John Lichfield, writing in the Independent, described it as ‘the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.’ It depicts a simple scene; the subject, Lisa Gherardini, sits with her hands crossed in her lap. The fascination stems from the complex expression caught on her face, which invites the audience into silent conversation with the subject. It’s difficult to leave her gaze, or decide whether or not a hint of a smile adorns her lips.
Another point of surprise is its size. The Mona Lisa only 77 by 53 centimetres, which makes it difficult to get a good view in a crowded room.
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