Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait painting by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is considered an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, and has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world". The painting's novel qualities include the subject's expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modelling of forms, and the atmospheric illusionism.
The painting is likely of the Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel. It had been believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506; however, Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. Recent academic work suggests that it would not have been started before 1513. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic itself, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.
- To you, a prostitute is some kind of beautiful object. You respect her as you do the Mona Lisa, in front of whom you also would not make an obscene gesture. But in so doing, you think nothing of depriving thousands of women of their souls and relegating them to an existence in an art gallery. As if we consort with them so artistically!
- Walter Benjamin, Letter to Herbert Belmore, June 23, 1913, in The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, p. 35
- Florence Thompson, the Mona Lisa of the 1930s, a migrant mother whose picture haunted the nation.
- Bob Dotson, In pursuit of the American dream (1985), p. 4
- The genius of Leonardo as a painter came through unfolding the mystery of life... "Look at the grace and sweetness of men and women in the street," he wrote... The whole world was full of a mystery to him, which his work reflected. The smile of consciousness, pregnant of that which is beyond, illumines the expression of Mona Lisa.
- Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only 'cause you're lonely they have blamed you?
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?
- Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there, and they die there
Are you warm? Are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?
- Ray Evans, in "Mona Lisa" (1950)
- Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer.
- Alfred Whitney Griswold, baccalaureate address, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (9 June 1957) — Congressional Record (11 June 1957), vol. 103, Appendix, p. A4545
- The Mona Lisa, to me, is the greatest emotional painting ever done. The way the smile flickers makes it a work of both art and science, because Leonardo understood optics, and the muscles of the lips, and how light strikes the eye — all of it goes into making the Mona Lisa's smile so mysterious and elusive.
- [S]ince art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form only reinforces the concept. It is the idea that is being reproduced. Anyone who understands the work of art owns it. We all own the Mona Lisa.
- Prese Lionardo a fare per Francesco del Giocondo il ritratto di mona Lisa sua moglie.
- Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife.
- Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), p. 39