We may be the last of the dunces when it comes to art, but we still know the Mona Lisa. It may well be the one and only painting that we are able to recognize on this low land, but that’s already it, in fact. Mona Lisa is today one of the most famous paintings in the world, one of the works to see in priority if you go to the Louvre. However, the Mona Lisa has not been known for that long! In fact, this table contains many small stories that you probably did not know, and that Trung Phan told us on Twitter… Oh yeah? Did you know that Picasso was accused of having stolen it from the Louvre, did you?
1. Mona Lisa is a nickname
Da Vinci’s model was actually called Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini (a bit long, I grant you). She was also known as Lisa del Giocondo, since she married Francesco del Giocondo. This name also explains the famous name of the painting: “La Joconde”, translation of “La Gioconda”.
2. Nobody cared for 400 years
Painted in the early 1500s, by Da Vinci on the commission of Franscesco del Giocondo, few people were really aware of this painting for more than four centuries. If, as we shall see, the web circulated in royalty, the people did not have much to shake before the 1910s.
3. Da Vinci took 4 years to paint this portrait
Started in 1502, he would not have finished it before 1506. For example, 4 years: this is the time it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. And that’s not all: Leonardo da Vinci will never give the portrait to the person who commissioned it. Never. He kept it and ended up moving from Italy to France, his painting under his arm.
4. Painting goes from king to king
After the painter’s death, it was François I who acquired the work and installed it in the Château de Fontainebleau. The presence of the portrait is attested in the cabinet of paintings in the 1600s. In 1646, it sat in the bedroom of Anne of Austria, still in Fontainebleau, then Louis XIV brought it back to Paris. Between 1665 and 1666, he left the Louvre Palace to join the Ambassadors’ Gallery at the Tuileries Palace, then the Tuileries at Versailles in the 1690s. It remained in the collections of the Palace of Versailles for a century, then entered the collections of paintings from the Louvre Museum in 1797. The public saw it exhibited for the first time the following year… For a short time! In 1801, Bonaparte had it moved to the Tuileries Palace, in Joséphine’s personal apartments, before returning it to the Louvre in 1802.
5. In 1911, the painting was stolen from the Louvre
In August 1911, the painter Louis Béroud came to the Louvre, with the intention of making a sketch of the Mona Lisa canvas. Problem, instead of the Mona Lisa: a large empty space. The painting was stolen. Between the time of the theft and the time it is observed, 24 hours pass. The news quickly made the rounds of all the newspapers in the country and the police secured the borders to catch the thief if he tried to flee abroad with the web.
6. …. And Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire were prime suspects
Quite quickly, two suspects stand out: the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and one of his great friends: Pablo Picasso. Apollinaire had as secretary Géry Pieret, a young man known for his talents in swindling. In particular, he had stolen some small Iberian sculptures from the 3rd and 4th centuries from the Louvre Museum to then sell them to Pablo Picasso and Apollinaire. Picasso is a total fan of it. So much a fan that one of them serves as a model for one of the faces of his famous painting: Les demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).
But now, in 1911, Pieret faces some money problems. His solution? He returns to the Louvre, stealing a few new things to sell. Apollinaire discovers his activity and the madman at the door, the day the theft of the painting is noticed. Odd. In an excess of zeal, Pieret sends a freshly stolen statuette from the Louvre to the daily Paris Journal, claiming to also have La Joconde, and claiming 150,000 francs. The police are alerted, but the man flees Paris before being worried. The guilt then goes back to two people, from the circle close to Pieret, consciously holding statuettes stolen from the Louvre: Apollinaire and Picasso.
7. …But in the end, it wasn’t them!
The two men appeared before the judge on September 8 of the same year. Quickly, they are found not guilty, and are released 4 days after the start of the hearing. It was in 1913 that the real thief finally surfaced. It was Vincenzo Perrugia, a worker at the Louvre, living only a few blocks from the museum. Brought to work there with his company, he took the opportunity to quietly steal the Mona Lisa. If the details as to the course of the theft are still full of mystery, we know that the Mona Lisa was simply hidden under the bed of the criminal for 2 and a half years, then that he managed to bring her back to Italy. Back in the country, he tried to resell the work to a Florentine antique dealer, but was denounced. Well tried. This episode will at least have allowed the Mona Lisa to acquire a maximum of fame and to be loved by all. As the saying goes “You only realize the importance of something when you lose it. » Deep.
8. His smile is responsible for dark history
This beautiful young lady with a deadly smile will have broken many hearts. Literally. Several men, madly in love with the portrait and aware that their romances were impossible, preferred to kill themselves. In 1852, it was the artist Luc Maspero who threw himself from the fourth floor of a Parisian hotel, leaving for letter “For years, I desperately fought against his smile. I’d rather die. » In 1910, a man came to kill himself in front of her, looking her straight in the eye. Creepy.
9. The Mona Lisa was hidden during the World Wars
To prevent the painting from being a collateral damage of the wars, from being bombed or stolen again, the Mona Lisa was evacuated from the Louvre and hidden. Between the end of September 1938 and mid-June 1945, it traveled around ten times, hidden in a crate bearing the registration number “MNLP n°0” for “Musée Nationale du Louvre Peintures n°0”. (Source)
10. 7 million people come to see it every year
That is… 15 to 20,000 people every day! A real star, straight from the 16th century. Style.
11. Its value is priceless
Inevitably, when you attract so many visitors every day, it costs a small weight in gold… The value of the Mona Lisa is, according to expert opinion firms, “immeasurable”. If it was necessary at all costs to give it a price (lol), the firm Expertissim, specialist in antiquity and works, estimated it in 2015 at… 2 billion euros. The most expensive work in the world, unquestionably.