The Sordid History of the Mona Lisa
While most contemporary scholars are confident that Lisa Gherardini is the figure featured in the Mona Lisa, its exact story is still relatively unknown. “Among the aspects which remain unclear,” the Louvre's website explains, “are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo worked on the painting, how long he kept it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection.”
Still, even the painting's more recent history is fascinating. Since entering the Louvre in the late 18th century, it has famously faced theft and vandalism. In 1911, it was stolen by Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia—though modern artist Pablo Picasso was first falsely accused—who believed the piece rightfully belonged in Italy, the home of Leonardo.
Similarly, in 1956, both acid and a rock were thrown at the painting in separate attacks.
The Mona Lisa Today
Due to both its tumultuous past and its contemporary fame, today, the Mona Lisa is exhibited behind a layer of bulletproof glass. Even in such a unique and controversial display, the painting remains one of the most popular pieces in the Louvre and, unsurprisingly, one of the most viewed and visited paintings in the world.
In fact, for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death in Paris, the Louvre is hosting a blockbuster exhibition that will use virtual reality to bring visitors closer to the Mona Lisa. Using cutting-edge technology, art lovers can go behind the bulletproof glass and examine the hidden details of the painting. For those who can't make the trip to Paris, partner HTC is allowing access via multiple virtual reality platforms.