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Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–1506
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This needs no introduction as it is one of the most recognized and most visited works of all time. One of the many reasons that make this work loved by so many, is that the history of the Mona Lisa is shrouded in mystery. Among the aspects which remain unclear are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo worked on it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection. What we do know is that the Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait—a technique that not even da Vinci had done before. The woman is painted in a realistic scale from her head to the waist. She rests her left arm on the arm of a chair, flanked by two fragmentary columns framing the figure and forming a “window” looking out over the landscape. Mona Lisa’s famous smile is said to be a “visual representation of the idea of happiness. Leonardo made this the central motif of the portrait: it is what makes the work such an ideal.” (The Louvre)

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