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La Giaconda: Mona Lisa History

Leonardo da Vinci left us numerous masterpieces that we still study and marvel at today. One such masterpiece, the 16th century oil painting of the Mona Lisa, also referred to as ‘La Giaconda’, is considered by the art world to be one of his most famous works. The history of the Mona Lisa has long garnered much attention and stirred controversy with regard to the identity of the woman who sat for the painting.

It is said that the painting was commissioned by the wealthy silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo and his wife Lisa. The couple wanted it for their new home, and to mark the birth of their second child. Many believe that the woman in the painting is indeed Lisa del Giocondo. However, the debate still continues today.

Mona LisaDa Vinci started the piece in 1503 and worked on it for four years; then, he set it aside. He moved to France in 1516 when the French King invited him, and resumed his work on the Mona Lisa. It took another three years to complete.

Theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911
Part of the Mona Lisa history includes a robbery that caused much ado. The painting was displayed in the Salon Carre, in the Louvre. On August 21, 1911, an artist went to the museum to admire the notable painting and discovered instead an empty space; the Mona Lisa had been taken from the Louvre.

The museum was shut down for a week in order to pursue the investigation. French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was arrested and jailed on the suspicion that he was somehow associated with the theft. He, in turn, accused his friend Pablo Picasso. Eventually, both men were cleared of any wrongdoing.

In 1912, two years after the theft, the Mona Lisa was found. It is believed that Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia stole the painting and left with it under his coat after closing hours.

One hypothesis regarding the reason behind the theft is that Peruggia was convinced that the painting belonged in Italy because it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Another hypothesis is that his friend had been selling copies of the Mona Lisa, and figured that the value of the copies would increase if the original had vanished.

Vincenzo Peruggia was caught trying to sell the painting. The Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre in 1913, where it still hangs to this day, and continues to intrigue its viewers.


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