How Much Does The Mona Lisa Cost Today? What Makes It So Special?

Today, in 2021, the Mona Lisa is believed to be worth more than $ 867 million, taking into account inflation. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between 1503 and 1506 AD. It is painted in such a way that the eyes of the Mona Lisa fall into the center of vision of the user, while the lips fall into the peripheral vision.

During a conversation with a friend, the subject of the Mona Lisa came up unexpectedly; more specifically, why the price of a painting would approach a billion dollars.

mona lisa painting

The famous Mona Lisa (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

In my opinion, and this is a personal observation, the Mona Lisa does not seem to have a special WOW factor when viewed only fleetingly or with an inexperienced eye.

However, what does it matter what I feel about it! The fact that the Mona Lisa is considered the most expensive painting in the world today says something about its popularity.

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Who Painted The Mona Lisa?

Leonardo da Vinci, artist, scientist and inventor of the Italian Renaissance, is the painter of the Mona Lisa and is considered one of the most versatile polymath of all time.

The term “Renaissance Man,” someone who is versatile in many things, was coined because of Leonardo’s many talents and is used today to describe people who are similarly versatile in terms of their talent.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci (Photo Credits: Flickr)

Apart from the Mona Lisa, Leonardo’s other works are also incredibly exquisite: he kept diaries full of drawings and sketches, mostly on various subjects he studied.

Some of these drawings were sketches for other drawings, some were studies of anatomy, and some were more like scientific sketches. One of his most famous drawings is the Vitruvian Man.

Leonardo da Vinci- Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. (Photo Credit : Public domain / Wikimedia Commons)

The Vitruvian Man is an image of a man of perfect proportions, according to the records of the Roman architect Vitruvius. Other famous drawings include a design for an aircraft and a series of self-portraits.

Who Was Mona Lisa: The Woman In The Painting

It is widely believed that she was an Italian noblewoman named Lisa del Giocondo – the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

The painting was commissioned for her new home and to celebrate the birth of her second son – Andrea.

Mona Lisa Meaning

At that time, in Italy, Mona meant Madonna, which was how all women were addressed (e.g., Mrs.) and therefore the name Mona Lisa.

The Italian name of the Mona Lisa painting is La Gioconda, which literally means “the happy one.” It is said to be a pun on the feminine name form of Lisa’s marriage name – Giocondo.

When Was The Mona Lisa Painted?

It is believed that Da Vinci began to paint the Mona Lisa in Florence in 1503 or 1504. It took Da Vinci four years to finish the Mona Lisa despite its surprisingly small size.

It is not clear exactly when the painting was created.

Although the Louvre – the world’s largest art museum and a historical monument housing the original Mona Lisa – states that the Mona Lisa was painted between 1503 and 1506, some historians and Leonardo experts say the painting may not have been painted before 1513 AD.

How Much Is The Mona Lisa Worth?

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was insured in 1962 and had an insurance value of $100 million.

This sum equates to more than $867 million in 2021, adjusted for inflation.

Also Read: Why Is ‘The Vitruvian Man’ So Famous?

The painting is so valuable that in 2014, a France 24 article by France 24s, a French state-owned international news channel, suggested that the Mona Lisa could be sold to pay off the country’s national debt!

However, it was pointed out that “the Mona Lisa and other such works of art that were in museums owned by public institutions are public property and cannot be otherwise.”

Why Is The Mona Lisa So Famous?

Leonardo da Vinci used several unique and innovative techniques to paint the Mona Lisa. The painting redefined the rules of contemporary art at that time and the method he used became an integral part of the present curriculum of the art school.

The Technique (Of Not Using Lines Or Borders)

One of the tools da Vinci created was the sfumato technique, which translates to “without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke.” It was typical at the time for artists to form an outline, while Da Vinci did not use outlines, but used different hues to create the illusion of light and shadow.

Starting with dark undertones, he created the illusion of three-dimensional features through layers and layers of thin, semi-transparent glazes. He used darker hues to highlight features and boundaries of the motif. Using this technique aroused the interest of the art community in Paris and was hailed as a pioneering innovation in painting.

MonaLisa sfumato

The Sfumato Effect in the Mona Lisa (Photo Credit: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

There were many other unique features of the Mona Lisa that fascinated the art world and viewers, such as the landscape of mountains and rivers in the background. A portrait was usually painted in front of an open sky, a monotonous background or a room. This was different.

These small points of uniqueness, however, are recognized only by connoisseurs or by those who have studied the image; this still does not explain why all people in the world want to see it.

The Mona Lisa’s Smile

One of the most popular reasons for the worldwide appeal of the Mona Lisa is its smile. Da Vinci used optical illusion to create a unique smile through perspective and shadow work. Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in such a way that the eyes of the Mona Lisa fall directly into the viewer’s focus, while the lips fall just below the periphery of vision.

Whenever the viewer looks into the eyes of the Mona Lisa, the mouth falls into the peripheral vision, so that the facial features of the mouth are somewhat less pronounced; together with a small shade of the cheekbones, this makes the mouth look like a smile.


Mona Lisa(Photo Credit : C2RMF/Wikimedia Commons)

But as soon as the viewer’s gaze is fixed on the smile, it slowly disappears, as if it were never a smile. Here lies the magic of Leonardo’s skill, which made this legendary painting unique compared to other paintings of its time.

Interpretations Of The Smile Of The Mona Lisa

There are various interpretations of the smile; some say it is a happy smile, others find it deceptive, and still others believe it is a sad smile. Apart from the nature of the smile itself, it has also led to much speculation as to who the motif was; in other words, whose face inspired the most famous painting in history?

The facial expression gives the picture a puzzling quality and makes the viewer ask what the model thought, who she was and why she appears happy and sad to some.

Secrets Of The Mona Lisa

There are rumors of hidden secrets and symbols within the painting. Academics have found evidence of various unknown image levels within the Mona Lisa. Scholars are said to have identified at least four different paintings that could be variants of the Mona Lisa, with several different people as motifs. Some claim that Da Vinci actually painted the Mona Lisa as a female Da Vinci.

Da Vinci was not only known as an inventor, artist and scientist, but also as an interesting character. In his heyday and under the patronage of François I, he managed to create an aura of fame around him. His fame spilled over to the Mona Lisa, which was also favored by his patron Francois I.

It is important to note that during his lifetime, only 20 completed canvas paintings were made, which further increased the rarity of the Mona Lisa. The fact that it was stolen at the beginning of the 20th century contributed to its fame.

Artists such as Duchamp, Dali and Warhol continued to spread the image through their own reproductions. The image was used as an object for mass reproduction, merchandising, lampooning and speculation and reproduced in 300 different paintings and over 2,000 advertisements.

There are also some other controversial stories about who the subject of the painting is: the Mona Lisa was always exhibited in an important place, even in public at Fontainebleau, the favorite castle of François I in 1519. In 1800, the Mona Lisa was hung in Napoleon’s bedroom and transferred after four years to the Louvre, which she still calls her home.

Also Read: What Is Varnishing? How Do Paintings Get So Much Color After Varnishing?

The Mona Lisa continues to be explored by artists and academics in order to uncover the obvious mystery that surrounds it like a shroud. Its reputation as a bearer of symbols, secrets and other unknown secrets is sure to sustain the popularity of the Mona Lisa for a very long time to come.

Let’s see how well you know the Mona Lisa!

Can you answer three questions based on the article you just read?

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About the Author

Venkatesh is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India. He is deeply fascinated by Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He is also a chess aficionado, He likes studying chess classics from the 1800 and 1900’s. He enjoys writing about science and technology as he finds the intricacies which come with each topic fascinating.