Mona Lisa — The Louvre, Paris Leonardo’s three great portraits of women all have a strange air of wistfulness. This is at its most engaging in Lady with the Ermine, brooding in the Female Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci and undeniably enigmatic in the Mona Lisa. Unarguably the most famous painting in history, it is also the only portrait by Leonardo whose authorship remains unquestioned. Though neither signed nor dated it is universally accepted to be by Leonardo. But who was the subject, when was it painted and what is the story behind the mystical smile?
This oil on wood painting is one of Da Vinci’s very early works, and is usually dated as c. 1474, a time during which Leonardo was still with Andrea Verrocchio, and had been for about eight years. It was long debated as to whether Leonardo was behind this work; acceptance came with the realisation that during the period of 1470-1480 there were no other painters capable of such an impressive painting.