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Louvre: Leonardo da Vinci – Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)

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Leonardo da Vinci - Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

Denon wing – 1st floor – Mona Lisa room – Room 6

We did not forget the emotion that shook the civilized universe when one morning in August 1911 spread the incredible news: “Mona Lisa was stolen!” In all parts of the globe, this loss was felt like a disaster. Disaster, certainly, and without equivalent, because, with the Mona Lisa, had disappeared one of the most grandiose productions of human genius. Despite its prodigious assemblage of masterpieces, Salon Carré lost the best of its glory; in the jewel-filled case was missing the most beautiful diamond, the one that threw the brightest and purest fires. The Mona Lisa no longer welcomed the visitor with his enigmatic smile, and who knew where the strange creature rested its troubling and mysterious gaze?

Fortunately, thanks to a rapid investigation, active research, and also to the insight of an Italian antiquarian, the marvelous canvas of Vinci was found, and, to the joy of all, she resumed her former place, triumphant and naughty, grouping an even larger court of worshipers around her immortal beauty.

No painting in the world has provoked so much admiration. The Mona Lisa had her poets, her novelists, her lovers. Some men worshiped her as a living being; there are some who killed themselves for her …

Let’s read the enthusiastic page where Théophile Gautier celebrates the Mona Lisa:

Mona Lisa! Sphinx of beauty who so mysteriously smile in the frame of Leonardo da Vinci and seem to propose to the admiration of centuries an enigma that they have not yet solved, an invincible attraction always leads to you! Oh! indeed, who has not leant long hours in front of this head bathed in half-tints crepuscular, wrapped in transparent pancakes and whose features, melodiously drowned in a purple vapor, appear as a creation of the Dream through the black gauze of Sleep! From which planet fell, in the middle of a landscape of azure, this strange being with her look that promises unknown voluptuousness and her divinely ironic expression? Leonardo da Vinci impresses his figures with such a stamp of superiority that one feels disturbed in their presence. The shadows of their deep eyes conceal secrets forbidden to the profane, and the inflections of their mocking lips suit gods who know everything and gently despise human vulgarities. What a disturbing fixity and superhuman sardonism in these dark eyes, in those undulating lips like the bow of Love after he has unraveled the line! Would it not be said that the Mona Lisa is the Isis of a cryptic religion which, believing herself alone, opens the folds of her veil, even if the imprudent person who surprises her should go mad and die? Never has the feminine ideal assumed more ineluctably seductive forms. Believe that if Don Juan had met the Mona Lisa, he would have spared himself from writing three thousand names of women on his list; he would have drawn only one, and the wings of his desire would have refused to carry it farther. They would have melted and plucked in the black sun of these eyes. We have seen her many times, this adorable Mona Lisa, and our declaration of love does not seem to us too hot today. She is still there, smiling with a mocking voluptuousness to her innumerable lovers. On her brow lies the serenity of a woman sure to be eternally beautiful and who feels superior to the ideal of all poets and artists.”

The divine Leonard took four years to make this portrait, which he could not decide to leave, and which he never considered finished; during the sessions, musicians played to cheer up the beautiful model and prevent its charming features from taking on a look of boredom and fatigue.

Should we regret that the particular black used by Leonardo prevailed in the shades of the Mona Lisa and gave them this delightful purple harmony, this abstract tone that is like the color of the ideal? We do not think so. Now, the mystery adds to the charm and the picture, in its freshness, was perhaps less attractive.

The model of this magnificent portrait was called Lisa Maria di Noldol Gherardini; she married, in 1495, Francesco di Bartolomeo of Zénobi del Giocondo, hence her name “Mona Lisa”, under which she is now famous.

The Mona Lisa was painted around 1502. Francis I acquired it for four thousand gold crowns and had it placed in the gilded cabinet of Fontainebleau. She then went to Louis XIV’s room at Versailles. After the Revolution, the famous portrait was transported to the Louvre and placed in the Salon Carré where he remained until recent years.

Height: 0.77 – Width: 0.83 – Figure in full-size bust.

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