Lisa di Antonmaria Gherardini — also called Lisa del Giocondo, after her marriage — was born on 15 June 1479, in Florence. She married in her teens to Francesco del Giocondo, a cloth and silk merchant — who later became a local official — who commissioned her legendary portrait, in 1503, to Leonardo da Vinci. Lisa was a mother to five children and led what is thought to have been a comfortable and ordinary middle-class life. Centuries after her death, on 15 July 1542, Mona Lisa, the Leonardo Da Vinci artwork, became the world’s most famous painting. And also one of the most replicated and reinterpreted.
Mona Lisa replicas were already being painted during Leonardo’s lifetime by his own students and contemporaries. Some are claimed to be the work of Leonardo himself, and remain disputed by scholars. In January 2012 Museo del Prado in Madrid announced that it had discovered and almost fully restored a copy of the painting by a pupil of Leonardo, very possibly painted alongside the master.
Although there are dozens of surviving replicas of Mona Lisa from the 16th and 17th centuries, the Prado’s one may have been painted simultaneously by a student of Leonardo in the same studio where he painted his own Mona Lisa— at the same time from slightly different viewpoints, as speculated by German imaging researchers Claus-Christian Carbon in 2014. So this is said to be the replica with the most historical value. Among the pupils of Leonardo, Salaì or Francesco Melzi are the most plausible authors of this version — Salaì is also thought to have been the model for the Mona Lisa by a group of Italian researchers.
Prominent 20th-century artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí have also produced derivative works, manipulating Mona Lisa’s image to suit their own aesthetic.
Considered public domain and therefore outside of copyright protection, this portrait has also been exploited to make political statements. Known even to people with no art background, the mere use of Mona Lisa’s name is capable of stirring public interest and intrigue
In 2005, Lisa was definitively identified as the model for the Mona Lisa. She’ll never know what happened to her face in all these years. And how she became the source par excellence through which telling times, worlds and events.