Mona Lisa Facts
Mona Lisa Facts

33 Fascinating Mona Lisa Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published April 28, 2020

Smiling at us across the centuries, the Mona Lisa still mystifies us today. Explore Mona Lisa facts to understand her timeless allure, intrigue, and art.

  • The Mona Lisa is widely considered to be the archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.[4]
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of 1,500 people an hour visited the Mona Lisa.[12]
  • Even though there are over 6,000 paintings at the Louvre, over 90% of museum vistors go directly to the Mona Lisa.[12]
  • Mona Lisa should actually be spelled Monna Lisa, which is an abbreviation of Madonna Lisa or "my lady Lisa."[12]
  • The government of France owns the Mona Lisa.[11]
  • According to French heritage law, the Mona Lisa cannot be bought or sold. The painting belongs to the public.[12]
  • Mona Lisa has her own mailbox at the Louvre because of all the love letters she receives.[9]
  • Mona Lisa Parody
    How would you re-envision the Mona Lisa?
  • In 1919, Dadaist Marcel Duchamp painted one of the most famous parodies of the Mona Lisa. Titled LHQQ the initials sound in French like "she has a hot ass."[2]
  • On June 23, 1852, French artist Luc Maspero threw himself from the 4th story window of his Paris hotel room. He left a note about the Mona Lisa, saying, "For years I have grappled with her smile. I prefer to die."[10]
  • The Mona Lisa has been attacked several times. In 1956, a man through acid at the painting. A few months later, a man threw a rock at the painting, chipping some of its pigment. The painting now is secured behind bullet-proof glass.[1]
  • After the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, it took museum staff 48 hours to notice. After the theft, subsequent media attention helped propel the Mona Lisa to international fame.[13]
  • Though it looms large in cultural influence, the Mona Lisa is rather small: just 30 inches by 21 inches, and 18 pounds.[4]
  • Famed artist Pablo Picasso was a suspect in the 1911 Mona Lisa theft because he had been caught before trying to sell stolen Louvre pieces.[13]
  • While it appears that the Mona Lisa does not have eyelashes or eyebrows, a 2007 study revealed that she originally was painted with them. They gradually disappeared, most likely due to overcleaning.[5]
  • It is thought that Da Vinci kept the Mona Lisa with him for more than decade and kept working on it up until his death.[5]
  • In 2005, Mona Lisa's face was analyzed using "emotion recognition" software. The analysis revealed that she is 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.[3]
  • Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation. 

    - Will Rogers

  • The Mona Lisa is not painted on canvas. Instead, it is painted on three pieces of wood, which are about 1.5 inches thick.[11]
  • The "Mona Lisa Effect" is the illusion that the eyes of a person in an image follow you, no matter where you stand. However, it isn't true for the actual Mona Lisa.[6]
  • Napoleon hung the Mona Lisa in his bedroom.[4]
  • Most art historians believe the subject of the Mona Lisa is Lisa Gheradini, the second wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine silk merchant.[1]
  • Although Francesco del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa, for some reason, Leonardo did not give it to him. Leonardo eventually took the painting with him to France, where he worked on it until his death.[4]
  • In 1983, a Japanese artist made a replica of the Mona Lisa on a piece of toast.[8]
  • On April 21, 1974, a woman spray painted the Mona Lisa red to protest the museum's failure to provide access for disabled people. The painting was behind protective glass and was unharmed.[4]
  • The Mona Lisa is the most visited, most written about, most sung about, and most parodied work of art in the world.[12]
  • Mona Lisa Smile
    One of the most legendary reasons for the Mona Lisa's fame is her mysterious smile

  • Napoleon Bonaparte was enamored by the Mona Lisa, describing her as the "Sphinx of the Orient."  He referred to her as "Madame Lisa."[4]
  • The magic of the Mona Lisa lies in Leonardo's method of sfumato, or not drawing outlines. The blurring effect is pronounced around her eyes and mouth.[7]
  • In the book "The Da Vinci Code," author Dan Brown suggests that the Mona Lisa contains clues to the location of the Holy Grail. The book triggered a surge of new visitors to the Louvre.[7]
  • Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) began to paint the Mona Lisa when he was about 51 years old.[4]
  • When Leonardo died in 1519, the Mona Lisa was inherited by his student and assistant Salai. King Francois of France most likely bought it from Salai, which is how a painting by an Italian artist became the property of France.[4]
  • Mona Lisa Crowd Facts
    Chaos at the Louvre, thanks to the Mona Lisa. Is she overrated?
  • The crowds viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre became so unbearable that the museum implemented a queue system, where patrons have about 30 seconds to see the painting.[7]
  • Over 6 million people visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre each year. They each spend about 15 seconds looking at her.[7]
  • To get a close-up view of the Mona Lisa, visit the Musee du Louvre website. You can zoom in on the painting and even compare scientific tests done with infrared, x-radiography, and UVF scans.[9]
  • The man who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 had helped build the glass case that held the painting. He hid in the broom closet overnight and then walked out in the morning. He was Italian and believed the painting belonged to Italy.[4]

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