Feel Art Again: Mona Lisa

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Perhaps the most famous smile in the world is that of the Mona Lisa. Because tomorrow is World Smile Day, let's discuss Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece and the famous smile it contains.

1. The painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, but was not discovered missing until the next day. Both Guillaume Apollinaire, the French poet, and his friend, Pablo Picasso, were suspected during the course of the investigation, but were exonerated. The real thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, was an Italian patriot who thought the famous painting should be returned to its home country. He was hailed for his patriotism in Italy and only served a few months in jail.

2. Despite being doused with acid, hit with a rock, and infested with insects, the painting is one of the most well-preserved.

Keep reading for four more things you may not know about the Mona Lisa...

3. Amazingly, the painting is uninsured. As Estelle Nadau of the Louvre puts it, "The Mona Lisa is inestimable. She belongs to the French state, which is its own insurer, that is the reason why she is not insured."

4. There are two predominant theories for the woman's lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. Some scholars believe the lack of facial hair is just a sign of the times, since it was common for genteel women of the time to pluck their eyebrows. Other scholars believe, however, that Leonardo simply didn't finish the painting, since many of his paintings are unfinished.

5. The Japanese are apparently huge fans of the Mona Lisa. The 1.5 million viewers of the painting during its 1974 exhibition in Japan set a record which has not yet been broken. After that visit, the Japanese provided the triplex glass box which now protects the painting. A huge exhibit of copies and parodies, titled "Les 100 Sourires de Monna Lisa" (The 100 Smiles of Mona Lisa), toured Japan in 2000. Two years later, a mini series titled "Mona Lisa no Hohoemi" (Mona Lisa's Smile) aired. It alleged that another version of the Mona Lisa, which da Vinci secretly painted, is somewhere in Japan.

6. According to the University of Amsterdam's "emotion recognition" software, the subject of the Mona Lisa is 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.

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October 4, 2007 - 2:44am
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