Now probably known as the most famous painting in the World, the Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda, wasn’t always the highlight of the Louvre.
The painting was not an unknown or disrespected painting. It was even a beloved painting by artists during the Belle Epoque as a stunning example of Renaissance portraiture. Napoléon supposedly even displayed it in his bedroom for a period. The Mona Lisa was just merely overlooked by the general public.
Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Gicondo, on commission for her husband, a wealthy silk merchant from Florence, completing it in either 1506 or 1517, before the painting was sold to King Francis I of France.
The painting remained in the possession of the French Kings, first at the Palace of Fontainbleau and later at the Palace at Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre.
It remained in the Louvre between 1797 and 1911, when the painting was stolen. At first, there was confusion was the painting was even missing or if it had been removed for cleaning. Famous poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, and his friend, Pablo Picasso, were briefly suspects.
The painting’s whereabouts remained unknown until 1914 when the Uffizi Gallery briefly displayed it before returning it to the Louvre.
A Louvre employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, had stolen the painting, claiming he was an Italian nationalist. According to Peruggia, since the Mona Lisa was created by an Italian painter, it should be displayed in an Italian gallery. However, fearful that he would be arrested, Peruggia kept the painting in his apartment for two years, ultimately selling it to Uffizi Gallery.
The painting developed a rather high profile during its disappearance due to the heavy coverage by newspapers. It became the most famous painting in the World and later the subject of innumerable selfies.