Tuesday, 16 August 2011

"Quick! Quick! The Mona Lisa. I'm double-parked!"

Whether or not the Louvre art museum in Paris is the best in the world is a matter of debate and local pride and prejudice, but it is apparently the most visited, and many visitors will be there for one reason only, to see it's most famous attraction, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

It was painted some time between 1503 and 1519 and is variously known as La Gioconda, La Jaconde, and Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Though now regarded as the most famous painting in the world, it was not generally known until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, since when its reputation has soared, and is now an unmistakable icon of western art.

In 1911 the picture was stolen and suspicion fell on two of the leading artistic figures of the time, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and the painter Pablo Picasso. In the event the culprit was discovered to be someone much more banal, a certain Vincenzo Peruggia, an employee at the Louvre and an Italian patriot who wanted to see the painting returned to its native land. He was only discovered when he tried to sell the work to the Uffizi in Florence.

If you're planning on visiting the Louvre to see Leonardo's masterpiece please remember that many, many other people will have had the same idea, so don't expect to rub noses with the enigmatic Florentine lady. It's also very small, only 30 inches x 21 inches (77 cms x 53 cms) so those opera glasses may come in handy when you're peering at it from 50 feet distance.

"Out of the way! I've only got half a day and I've got the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Centre Pompidou whatever that is still to do!"
[picture Wikipedia]

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