Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Estimated date: 1503 to 1519
Where to see it: Louvre Museum (Paris)
It should come as no surprise that the most famous painting in the world is that mysterious woman with the enigmatic smile. But that’s one of the few certainties about this work of art.
The sitter in the painting is thought to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florence merchant Francesco del Giocondo, but experts aren’t sure. It did represent an innovation in art — the painting is the earliest known Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait, according to the Louvre, where it was first installed in 1804.
Did you know? Before the 20th century, historians say the “Mona Lisa” was little known outside art circles. But in 1911, an ex-Louvre employee pilfered the portrait and hid it for two years. That theft helped cement the painting’s place in popular culture ever since and exposed millions to Renaissance art.