LOUVRE MUSEUM, Mona Lisa Denon Wing Hall 6

Audio File length: 2.38
English / USA Language: English / USA


You are now in front of the most famous painting in the world. Well, you might not be standing right in front of it, you could be in the middle of a crowd; everyone wants to see La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci!

Flash photography is supposed to be banned, but none of the guards has the inclination to step in, and there's a special glass shield to protect the painting from excessive exposure to flashes. This is the most frequently reproduced painting throughout the history of art, but it's nonetheless of a fairly modest size, just under 80 centimeters by 50. You can imagine how it looks reflected inside an armoured glass case; this is both the easiest picture to see and the hardest, it's easier to believe the masterpiece is a myth than to actually get a look at it.

So while you're trying to get a good view of the painting between the heads in the crowd, I'll start on the history of it.

The woman depicted has been identified as monna Lisa, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, although it's not definite; the most famous painting in the world is still shrouded in mystery. Not everyone believes she was a merchant's wife. According to some, she was the lover of Giuliano de' Medici, the brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent who was assassinated in the Pazzi conspiracy. Many locations have claimed to be the "real landscape" in the background. Leonardo probably started painting this portrait in 1503, but critics even disagree about the date! The only thing for sure is that it took the maestro several years to complete it; he changed his mind frequently and  made lots of adjustments and modifications. The portrait had to be a seductive and disturbing image right from the start; shrouded in the damp haze of a misty landscape and with that bare hint of a smile that encapsulates the mood of the figure. With La Gioconda Leonardo returned thirty years later to paint a scene with a natural setting, but imbued with a whole new psychological depth that tells of a complex, vague and changeable personality, just like the landscape stretching out behind.


FUN FACT: La Gioconda is not in a good state of preservation; there are cracks in the board and the color has yellowed considerably. Restoration is urgently required, but obviously this must be carried out with extreme caution.




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