It is currently being displayed in Paris, at the Louvre Museum, where it has been for over 200 years. It is one of the most visited works of art in the world. Critics and non-critics alike have been fascinated for centuries by the enigmatic smile of the subject and the masterful composition of the painting, and it remains one of the best-known examples of Da Vinci's work.
The Work's History
There is some dispute as to when Da Vinci began work on the Mona Lisa, but it was most likely at some point in 1503. It is possible that he began work on it during this time, left it unfinished for years, and then finished the painting in 1517. According to Giorgio Vasari, one of his contemporaries, he may have picked the work back up later in life after he had expressed regret at never having finished most of his paintings. It was likely commissioned by the silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo to celebrate the birth of his son and to adorn a wall on his family's new home.
Some time after Da Vinci's death, King Francis I purchased the work from Da Vinci's heir, and it stayed in the possession of the French royalty until the Revolution, when it was finally taken to be displayed in the Louvre, and has remained there to this day, with only brief breaks in between, during Napoleon's reign and again during the Franco-Prussian War.
In 1911, it was stolen and was missing for two years, until it was discovered that it had been stolen by an employee of the Louvre, an Italian who appeared to believe that the Da Vinci painting belonged in Italy, the birthplace of its creator. Vincenzo Peruggia has hidden the work in his home for two years before being caught attempting to sell it.
The painting was subsequently damaged in 1956 during two separate attempts at vandalism: A visitor threw acid at the work, and later that year another visitor threw a rock. After these incidents, the painting was finally shielding with bulletproof glass. It did not suffer damage from subsequent attempts at vandalism.
The Work's Title
“Mona” is a contraction of the Italian honorific “Madonna,” which essentially means “madam” or “my lady,” thus “Mona Lisa” simply respectfully addresses the assumed name of the subject. This title does not appear to have been coined by Da Vinci himself, but rather by Giorgio Vasari, an art historian who was one of Da Vinci's contemporaries, who recorded that the work was a portrait of Lisa Gherardini.
The Italian title of the work is La Gioconda, means “the jovial one,” and is a pun on the name of the family who likely commissioned it.