Why Mona Lisa Painting is Famous?

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most famous paintings in the art history. It is perhaps the most printed about and most discussed work ever. The work is kept behind a bullet-proof glass safely at the Musée du Louvre gallery in Paris. Around 6 million people visit the gallery to see this painting.


What makes her so popular? It is her smile that accounts for her popularity. Her half-smile is often described “enigmatic” and had mystified people from different aspects of life. The painting was always in limelight since its completion in 1519. Before reaching the gallery, this masterpiece was owned by Royal emperors and kings of France. Actually, 2 important events added to the popularity of this work.

Peruggia, an Italian employee stole the Mona Lisa painting from Louvre in 1911. He tried to sell the painting to the Florence museum, the second famous gallery in the world. It almost took two years to discover the lost painting.

Leonardo Da Vinci was often called the “Renaissance man”, but he is not the finest artist of the period. During the period, artists like Botticelli was renowned for using color and theme, Michelangelo was superior at painting the human form, and artistic talent was more clear in Raphael’s works.


But who is Mona Lisa?

It is the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, a member of Gherardini family in Florence and wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Only very little information is known about the subject. Many researchers think her as Da Vinci’s lover or mother.

Why is the Mona Lisa Painting Famous?

The painting is quite popular for the below reasons:

  • Smile

It is difficult to tell whether the subject is happy or not. Is Mona Lisa gloomy or happy? At the first sight, viewers feel she is happy but in next instant they sense, she is sad. This painting is a favorite topic for research since ages.

  • Unwatchable smile

Researchers call it the unwatchable smile. When viewed from different angles, you feel different facial expressions on the subject. You may think she is smiling from one angle and from the other angle, you may not feel the same.


  • Sfumato technique

The painting was viewed from different distances at diverse angles. When focused on the subject’s eye from a distance, a weak smile was seen.  But on a closer look, the smile vanishes. This technique is called “Sfumato” which means pale or soft in Italian. In this method, an optical illusion is created around the mouth using shading and color.


Sfumato painting technique creates a sense of Optical Illusion. Da Vinci was successful in crafting such an illusion centuries before the concept of Photoshop came into existence. The mysterious smile is an illusion effect caused by the peripheral vision. When you look at her eyes, Mona Lisa seems to be smiling but the smile disappears when you focus on her lips. This could be explained by the magic of sfumato painting technique with its shadow effect on the portrait’s face.

  • On the right pupil of Mona Lisa, you can see the artist’s initials.

Using face recognition software, the researchers at Illinois and Amsterdam University found that she is 83% happy, 9% dismayed, 6% scared and 2% annoyed.

There are several controversial stories related to this painting. Many researchers and historians believe there was some relationship between the subject and Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was never delivered to the Florentine silk merchant who commissioned this painting.

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