Mona Lisa: What's the Big Deal?

The Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, was painted in the 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci and stands in the Louvre in Paris. It has inspired bestselling books, movies, and television shows. At almost any given moment, the painting (surprisingly small) is surrounded by a crowd where it stands in the museum, and many make trips to the famous Parisian museum just to see the painting.

Just this week, new secrets about the painting are being revealed, including the fact that there are letters and numbers hidden in her eyes -- "a real-life Da Vinci Code" -- and I am forced to ask the same question I have asked time and again: What is the big deal with this lady? And before you say it's because I haven't seen her, I assure you I have. Three times, actually. And after seeing the painting three times in real life, fighting the crowd to get to the front and gazing into her eyes, I can still ask it.

Do I just not get art? To be sure, it's an interesting painting.


The discovery this week is a large one for fans of the painting who have long wondered who the mysterious woman in the painting is. Although long believed to be Lisa del Giocondo, others have suggested that "she" is actually da Vinci himself as a female.

This new discovery is a glimpse into the mystery of who she may have been. A group in Italy magnified high resolution images of the painting in order to find the "code," which is not visible to the naked eye, and one researcher said that "LV" appears in the right eye. This is likely da Vinci's own initials. In the other eye, the left one, the letters aren't as clear, though they appear to be "CE" or "B" or "S." In the background, the number "72" appears -- or it could be "L2."

No matter what, it's an interesting discovery and certainly one that makes the painting a bit more intriguing -- but I still don't get it. There are so many great paintings, what makes this one so special?

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"We are confident they are not a mistake and were put there by the artist," says one, adding that the number "149," with a fourth number erased, on the back indicates Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in Milan in the 1490s and used a woman from the Duke of Milan's court as a model.

I have no background in art or art history other than what I learned while studying abroad for a year. Maybe if I did I would be impressed by the brush strokes that don't show up on the painting or the shadows and light that he created so mysteriously more than 500 years ago, but I'm not. There are many beautiful paintings throughout the world that don't get nearly the attention of the Mona Lisa. So, what's the big deal about this one?

Does anyone else think the Mona Lisa is overrated?


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