Bask in her mysterious smile, her enigmatic gaze and her creepy lack of eyebrows, who can argue that Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the greatest painting in the world? Well, no matter how mysterious the painting may be, it was a great heist that made it the most popular painting in the world.
Actually, the reason why we think the Mona Lisa is the “greatest painting in the world” is not because it’s great. Leonardo Da Vinci wasn’t always considered one of the greatest painters and the Mona Lisa wasn’t even considered his greatest painting.
But that started to change in 1911 when one night, three men hid in a narrow storeroom near the Italian paintings room at the Louvre, took the Mona Lisa off the wall and walked right out the door with it. (the article continues after the ad)
How did they get past all the security? Well, there wasn’t much. In fact, it took 26 hours until the guards even realized it was missing. You see, back then, the Mona Lisa was just another painting in the Louvre and was far from being the most visited item in the museum. In his 1878 guidebook to Paris, Karl Baedeker offered just a paragraph of description about Mona Lisa – much less than other more famous Louvre exhibitions such as the Venus de Milo and Nike of Samothrace.
Back to the heist, when newspapers started reporting on the daring heist, the Mona Lisa became a media sensation. The whole thing exploded in just a matter of days and the police arrested many suspects (including Pablo Picasso) with the whole case covered thoroughly by the media and with great interest by the public. It was this high-profile story that really made Mona Lisa a popular, global icon. So, after it was recovered two years later, the Mona Lisa was now the most popular painting in the museum and soon, people were calling it one of the greatest in the world.
So how this popular story helped Mona Lisa?
One reason is a psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect. Simply said, the mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon which means the more often you see something, the more you tend to like it. People, critics and art lovers who initially had no interest about the painting started discussing Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile while the painting appeared in thousands of advertisements, postcards, cartoons and songs. When it was returned to the museum, at least 120,000 people went to see it within it first two days. As Author Dianne Hales wrote, “The Mona Lisa had left the Louvre a work of art and she returned as public property, the first mass art icon.” It was now a legend.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: 7 Secrets Hidden Within Masterpieces
Photo: Wikimedia, Wikimedia
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Stolen: How the Mona Lisa Became the World’s Most Famous Painting | The Heist that Made the Mona Lisa Famous | Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend | The Real Reason the Mona Lisa is Famous