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Mona Lisa painting

Who is Mona Lisa? What you didn’t know about the world’s most famous painting

Who was Mona Lisa in real life? Why is Mona Lisa so famous? Millions of tourists visit the portrait of Mona Lisa (also known as La Joconde) every year. The famous lady even made a cameo in a Beyoncé music video recently which they shot in the museum that hosts her – the famous Parisian Louvre. La Joconde has received countless declarations of (unrequited) love over the years, never not sparking the world’s interest. But what do we actually know about Mona Lisa and her ever receding smile?

Who is Mona Lisa?

To this day, despite countless researches and specialists’ reports stating the opposite, we still don’t know for sure who the woman portrayed in the painting is. The most common hypothesis is that his model was a lady from Florence, Lisa Maria Gherardini. This woman had married one of Da Vinci’s relatives, Francesco del Giocondo, thus becoming Lisa del Giocondo. Others claim her face perfectly matches that of Catherine Sforza, princess of Forli, in a painting by Lorenzo di Credi.

An Italian historian thinks the portrait was actually commissioned by Julien de Medicis. He would have requested a portrait of one of his mistresses, Pacifica Brandini d’urbin or Isabelle d’Este. Others think Mona Lisa represents Da Vinci’s mother or that her face is but a figment of his always prolific imagination and indeed, never actually existed. There is even word of the lady not being a lady at all, but Salaï, Da Vinci’s young apprentice. To each their own theory.

Mona Lisa close-up

Below the surface

Once upon a time, Mona Lisa had eyebrows and eyelashes. It was Pascal Cotte, a French engineer, who discovered the under-layers of the portrait and revealed a few surprising facts. We can now trace back four different stages in the creation of the masterpiece. At one point, Mona Lisa did have eyebrows and eyelashes, but time would have erased them. Cotte also discovered a whole other portrait of a lady underneath Mona Lisa, which once more begs the question of her identity.

Though the lady in the portrait remains a mystery, the Louvre receives every year letters from around the world addressed to Mona Lisa, by people confessing their undying love for her. And it isn’t the craziest thing that’s been done in her name…

Join us in a private tour of the Louvre museum to find out more about Mona Lisa and the best the largest art collection in the world has to offer!

Article written by Clémence

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