The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci: History, Facts & Location

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  • 0:04 The Creation of the Mona Lisa
  • 1:20 The Mona Lisa Goes to…
  • 2:06 The Mona Lisa Is Stolen
  • 3:41 Protecting the Mona Lisa
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Lively

Amy has an M.A. in American History. She has taught history at all levels, from university to middle school.

This lesson discusses the history of the one of the world's most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa. Learn more about Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

The Creation of the Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance man who was gifted in a number of areas, including writing, mathematics, geology, engineering, music and painting. He accomplished a great deal throughout his life, including the very famous painting, the Mona Lisa.

He never really stopped working on the Mona Lisa. Technically, he completed it in 1507, but the only thing that ended his work on it was his death in 1519. It was another 300 years before anyone outside of Italy took any notice of it and declared it a masterpiece of the Renaissance, which was a cultural movement from the 14th to 17th century in Italy, which emphasized the study of classic literature, an emphasis on reality in painting, and education.

Da Vinci had applied techniques and elements new to the era. The Mona Lisa's skin appears to glow from the layers of transparent oils. Da Vinci was a scientist and applied what he knew of anatomy to give the Mona Lisa realism. He even used what he learned from studying the changing colors of landscapes. Even the Mona Lisa's iconic smile and the landscape background were new artistic elements. As for who sat for the portrait, nobody knows. Perhaps the Mona Lisa is just a product of da Vinci's imagination.

The Mona Lisa Goes to the Louvre

When he died, da Vinci left the Mona Lisa to his friend and patron, King Francois I. The king kept the painting in his private quarters at the Palace of Fontainebleau and wound up with such a collection of art, his room was converted into an art gallery. Louis XV took it to the Palace of Versailles, and for a little while, the painting hung in Napoleon's bedroom in the Tuileries Palace.

However, the Mona Lisa found a permanent home in 1793 when the Louvre opened in Paris and the royal art collection was made available to the public. During World War II, there was concern that the Mona Lisa would either be damaged by bombs or stolen by the Nazis. So, the painting was taken away by ambulance in 1939 and spent the war in hiding.

The Mona Lisa Is Stolen

Other than spending the night in a stuffy supply closet, stealing the Mona Lisa was relatively simple. Vincenzo Perugia and his two accomplices made their move on the morning of August 21, 1911. It took three men to do it because the frame and the protective glass case, which Perugia helped install, weighed 200 pounds. After getting the painting out of the frame, they wrapped it in a blanket and simply walked away. It was not until the next day that a visitor noticed it was gone.

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