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Who Owns The Mona Lisa? (2022 Updated)

PARIS, FRANCE - March 12, 2018: Mona Lisa at the Louvre

 

One of the most famous paintings in history is The Mona Lisa.

Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, The Mona Lisa is famous both for his artistic skill and the mysterious quality of the painting.

It’s also famous for its theft from the Louvre.

Considering that Da Vinci is dead and The Mona Lisa generates the Louvre a good amount of money through people coming to see it, you may wonder who actually owns the painting.

Here’s what you need to know about the owner of The Mona Lisa.

 

Who Owns The Mona Lisa?

Leonardo Da Vinci

 

The Mona Lisa is actually owned by the people of France, with the French Government as its administrator.

This wasn’t always the case.

The original owner was Leonardo Da Vinci.

He painted it while he was a guest of King Francis I, the King of France.

He took possession of the painting after Da Vinci’s death.

The Mona Lisa then spent many years gracing the walls of various palaces.

When the French Revolution broke out, the rebels took possession of many royal collections.

That included The Mona Lisa.

They declared that the collection was the property of the French people.

It also ended up in Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom.

However, it now resides in the Louvre Museum where the general public can admire its beauty and mysteries.

 

 

Why Is The Mona Lisa So Famous?

Louvre Museum view

 

If you’ve never seen The Mona Lisa painting before, you may wonder why she’s so famous.

If she were to ever go on sale, billionaires across the globe would throw money into the ring to try and buy her.

It may make you wonder what it is about the painting that makes it so famous.

Here are a few reasons why The Mona Lisa is so famous.

 

1. Mysterious Individual

Leonardo DaVincis Mona Lisa in Louvre Museum

 

One of the biggest reasons The Mona Lisa is so famous is because no one knows who the painting depicts.

Some speculate that she’s the wife of a wealthy merchant.

Others claim that it’s actually Leonardo Da Vinci himself, dressed as a woman.

Some also claim that it’s actually one of Da Vinci’s lovers, a young man.

The fact that no one knows means there’s a bit of mystery surrounding the painting.

Everyone wants to know who she is and why she has that mysterious smile.

Everyone loves a good mystery, and The Mona Lisa presents quite a few.

This isn’t the case with many other paintings.

Many artists had a few models that they liked to use for their paintings.

Art experts are able to identify the model either because of their popularity or because the artist used them so often.

Many artists also did portraits of wealthy individuals.

They were the ones who could afford to hire skilled artists to paint their portraits.

As such, they often left behind a bit more history than those who were too poor to get a footnote in history.

The fact that Da Vinci died without making mention of his model only adds to the mystery.

The Mona Lisa is famous because the painting continues to make people wonder who the subject is.

 

2. Introduction Of A New Style

Close-up view of girl with palette in hands in light studio

 

Another reason The Mona Lisa is famous is that it shows the beginning of a new style of painting.

During the time in which Da Vinci painted The Mona Lisa, many artists were using a portrait view of their subjects.

They tended to show only one side of the subject’s face.

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa had the subject looking into the eyes of her viewers head-on.

It also features her hands which art experts believe make her seem more approachable.

Besides changing the view, Da Vinci also used his sfumato style.

It was a signature style of his that used a sort of smoky and soft focus on his subjects.

He married both realism and a dreamy sort of sense to his works.

The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of that style.

It was after The Mona Lisa that many of Da Vinci’s apprentices started to adopt the style.

Finally, Da Vinci showcased his understanding of musculature.

In particular, he focused on providing accurate musculature with facial expressions.

The Mona Lisa’s smile, for example, is as close to the real thing as someone in Da Vinci’s time could likely get.

He was able to get that enigmatic smile, and the realness of it, by spending time with dead bodies.

To better understand how muscles worked and looked beneath the skin, he studied cadavers in universities.

He then took that understanding of anatomy and applied it to his art.

All his knowledge essentially comes together with The Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa is famous because it presented a major change in style among artists.

 

3. Theft

Masked burglar breaking into the house

 

Perhaps one of the more infamous reasons that she’s so famous is that she was once stolen from the Louvre.

Before the theft, she wasn’t that famous.

Art critics hadn’t quite celebrated her as a masterpiece just yet.

Visitors to the Louvre weren’t that taken with her.

That changed in the early 1900s, however.

A carpenter in the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, decided to steal it.

He made an easy job of it, too.

He simply took the painting, tucked it under his jacket, and walked out of the museum with it.

There was an immediate frantic search for the missing painting.

The newspapers covered it with fervor.

People came to the Louvre to see the missing spot where the painting had once hung.

Police in different countries were all called to try and find the thieves.

Since the theft was making the headlines daily, those looking to earn extra money saw an opportunity.

They started selling postcards, corsets, and other merchandise related to The Mona Lisa.

Her image was suddenly everywhere and the story of her theft was spreading like wildfire.

She must have been something special for someone to steal her from one of the most famous art museums in the world.

The media frenzy alone made her famous practically overnight.

It’d be some time before authorities found the missing Mona Lisa and returned her to the Louvre.

However, the media sensation that it sparked essentially cemented her in history.

 

4. Merchandise And Parodies

Large-scale graffiti of the modern Mona Lisa

 

Another reason The Mona Lisa is famous is that she’s everywhere.

The heightened sensation of her theft brought her to the attention of modern artists.

They started to capitalize on the fervor by creating parodies of The Mona Lisa in their own style.

This only brought further fame to the original artwork since fans of the modern artist wanted to see its inspiration.

It also meant that her image was more and more recognizable.

Certain merchants started to use her image to sell certain things.

It might have been stamps, travel postcards, t-shirts, or even coffee mugs.

Whatever it was, The Mona Lisa fit.

Her marketability only further pushed her into the spotlight.

Part of the reason some vendors chose to use her image was that she became associated with historical importance in the art world.

No longer was she just another one of Da Vinci’s paintings.

She was the pinnacle of his paintings, a masterpiece.

Adding her image to some sort of product gave it a sense of classiness that appealed to certain people.

The Mona Lisa remains highly marketable today.

You can still find her image on postcards, t-shirts, and coffee mugs.

You can even get prints of her to hang in your own home.

Her marketability is one of the reasons why the painting is so famous.

 

5. Not Easily Accessible

 Editorial Use Only Louvre museum in paris

 

A final reason The Mona Lisa is popular is that she’s not that easy for people who live outside of France to see.

Those who live in France, and especially those in Paris, can simply take a trip to the Louvre whenever they want.

Those who live outside of France, particularly across the ocean, have a much harder time.

The Mona Lisa has only left the Louvre a few times.

Besides her theft, she has been to the United States and Japan for limited periods.

During those visits, the elite made a big show of hosting her.

The Kennedys were the ones who got to play host to her when she came to the United States.

They made a big dinner out of it and even named a dessert after her.

While she was in the United States, tons of people came to see the painting in person.

Many of those were celebrities and the elite of society.

Today, The Mona Lisa isn’t in the best shape.

She likely won’t ever leave the Louvre again.

Because of that, the only way that people can see her today is to go to France and head to the Louvre.

For many people, the price of a plane ticket to a different country is out of the question.

The fact that it isn’t easy to go and see her adds to her fame.

It’s often a bucket list item for many people.

It marks an accomplishment.

If she was easily accessible to everyone, then visiting her wouldn’t be such a big deal.

The Mona Lisa is famous because it’s difficult for everyone outside of France to make the trip and see her.

 

Was The Mona Lisa A Real Person?

Mona lisa in coffee froth

 

There’s a lot of speculation about who the model for The Mona Lisa was.

One of the strongest claims is that The Mona Lisa is Lisa Gherardini.

Lisa was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy fabric merchant in Italy.

The painting of The Mona Lisa is supposedly a portrait of her.

If that’s the case, then The Mona Lisa was, indeed, a real person.

Lisa lived the life that many Italian women in her social circle did.

She became a wife and a mother, and then she lived the rest of her life in a convent after her husband passed.

Italian women in the Renaissance didn’t enjoy quite as many freedoms as they do today.

While they had important roles in the household, their role was often diminished due to the patriarchal society that they lived in.

That said, Da Vinci never wrote down who the mysterious woman in The Mona Lisa painting was, claiming that Lisa Gherardini was the woman in the painting is still speculation.

 

Can Someone Buy The Mona Lisa?

"Mona Lisa" at the Louvre Museum

 

If you ever end up with billions of dollars, then you may wonder if it’s possible to buy The Mona Lisa.

No, you probably won’t ever be able to buy The Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa isn’t owned by a private entity.

It isn’t even the Louvre museum that owns it.

Instead, its owned by the people of France.

It’s the French government, however, that makes decisions about The Mona Lisa.

The government gave it to the Louvre so that every French citizen could go and enjoy it.

In order for The Mona Lisa to be sold, there would likely need to be some sort of vote.

The majority of the French population would have to vote to sell it.

It’s highly unlikely that a majority of the French people would want to sell The Mona Lisa to someone else.

For one, The Mona Lisa is a stable of French culture.

When people visit France, particularly Paris, one of the things that they usually want to do is see The Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre.

To sell it would mean losing that bit of identity.

The only reason that the French government would likely consider selling the painting is if its finances were severely in trouble.

Selling The Mona Lisa would likely give them a lot of money.

However, the French people may not see selling something as valuable as The Mona Lisa as worthy of settling something as trifling as debt.

Even after all that, if The Mona Lisa were to go up for sale, then you’d probably find yourself in a bidding war with other wealthy art collectors.

As one of the most famous paintings in the world, every art collector is going to want to own it.

It’d be the pinnacle of their collection and easily increase their collection’s worth by billions, if not trillions, of dollars.

It’s very likely that most people could not end up affording to purchase The Mona Lisa.

As such, you cannot buy The Mona Lisa and the opportunity to do so would likely be out of the reach of most people.

 

Is There More Than One The Mona Lisa?

 Reproduction of famous painting in Osaka

 

Yes, there is more than one The Mona Lisa.

While there’s only one The Mona Lisa in the Louvre, Da Vinci actually painted other versions of The Mona Lisa.

He and his students made a few versions of The Mona Lisa painting.

The one in the Louvre is the de facto The Mona Lisa.

The other paintings have slightly different titles.

They also look a bit different from The Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre.

One of the copies is in the Prado Museum.

Some art collectors also have copies in their private collections.

As such, while there’s only one The Mona Lisa when it comes to the one hanging in the Louvre, there are a few different iterations of her in the world.

 

Conclusion

The Mona Lisa is a famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci.

After his death, King Francis I came into possession of it, but it was the French Revolution that put the painting into the possession of the people.

Today, the French people, and thus the French government, own The Mona Lisa.


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