While many priceless artworks are located in museums and private collections worldwide, none are as legendary as the Mona Lisa. This famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci is among the most expensive pieces of art anywhere, which begs the question: How much is the Mona Lisa worth today?
The Mona Lisa is currently valued at over $908 million, adjusted for inflation. The mystery surrounding the painting, the subject’s smile, the techniques used to paint it, the famous heist, and the tour to the U.S. and Japan have only served to increase the painting’s status and hefty price.
There’s a saying that everything has a price, but does it? Mona Lisa’s beauty is priceless, and so is her influence. This post explores the Da Vinci masterpiece’s worth today and the specific reasons it is so valuable.
How Much is the Mona Lisa Worth?
(This article may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you make a purchase)
The Mona Lisa by Da Vinci was insured at a value of $100 million in 1962. In fact, Guinness World Records indicates that Mona Lisa has the highest insurance valuation in the history of artistic painting. That sum equates to over $908 million in today’s dollars, considering inflation.
The painting is so expensive that in 2014, France 24 (a French state-owned news channel) suggested that the painting could be sold to pay off France’s national debt.
Who Owns the Mona Lisa?
The Mona Lisa, painted between 1503 and 1507 AD, is public property and cannot be sold. Due to its priceless value, you can only see this beauty by visiting the Louvre Museum in Paris, where it’s on permanent display in a climate-controlled room behind bulletproof glass – just be prepared for huge crowds.
The Mona Lisa cannot be sold or bought. In fact, there’s a French government law that prohibits ever selling the Mona Lisa.
Why is the Mona Lisa Worth so Much?
The fact that the Mona Lisa is deemed the most expensive painting in the world says something about its popularity. Here’s why Mona Lisa is worth so much:
The Mystery Surrounding Mona Lisa’s Identity
Mona Lisa is said to be a painting of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine cloth merchant. However, no records of any commission from Francesco exist, and hence the sitter has never been identified conclusively.
The mysterious identity has lent the figure to whatever characterization viewers wanted to make of her. During the Romantic era of the 19th century, the sitter was said to be an enigmatic seductress.
At the same time, a French writer described her as a strange being with her gaze promising mysterious pleasures. Some have put forth the notion that she’s a vampire who has died several times and knows the mysteries of the grave, and others even argue that Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa as a female Da Vinci self-portrait.
The air of mystery around the Mona Lisa continues to define it, draw speculation, and increase its worth. Today, artists and academics continue to explore Mona Lisa to uncover the mystery surrounding it like a veil. The reputation as a bearer of secrets and symbols will sustain the popularity and price of the painting for a very long time to come.
The Mona Lisa’s Smile
Da Vinci employed optical illusion creating a unique smile through shadow work and perspective. For example, when you look Mona Lisa into the eyes, the mouth falls into the peripheral vision. That makes the facial mouth features somewhat less pronounced, coupled with a slight shade of cheekbones creating a smiley appearance. However, as soon as you look into the smile, it disappears slowly, as if it were never there.
This has sparked various arguments since the expression of the Mona Lisa is debatable. There have been different interpretations of the smile; some say it’s a happy smile or sad smile, while others find it deceptive. This has led to further speculation as to who the subject was and whose face inspired the painting.
Nevertheless, the facial expression provides the painting with a degree of intrigue, and the magic of Da Vinci’s skill makes the legendary painting both unique and pricey.
The Techniques Used (Mona Lisa)
Leonardo used different and innovative techniques to paint the Mona Lisa. The artwork redefined the ideologies of contemporary art at that time, and the strategy he used has become an integral part of the current art school curriculum. Being an oil painting, you can see its vivid and rich nature.
Moreover, Da Vinci used the sfumato technique (translates as without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke). While it was the norm for artists of that time to form an outline, Da Vinci didn’t use outlines. Instead, he used various hues to create the illusion of shadow and light.
The legendary artist created a three-dimensional illusion using dark undertones using multiple layers of thin, semi-transparent glazes. He also used darker hues to highlight the boundaries and features of the motif (subject). This technique aroused an interest in the art world, with many hailing it as a pioneering innovation in painting.
Other unique features of the painting continue to fascinate the art community and viewers, including the landscape of mountains and rivers in the background. These points of uniqueness, coupled with the innovative painting skills, further explain why the painting is valued so high.
Mona Lisa’s Hidden Secrets and Symbols
There are rumors of hidden symbols and other secrets within the Mona Lisa painting. Some scholars have found evidence of previously unknown image layers within the picture, while others have identified four similar paintings that could be variants of the artwork with different people as the subject of the painting.
A Limited Edition
It’s also vital to note that less than 20 completed canvases have survived from Da Vinci’s lifetime, further increasing the Mona Lisa’s rareness.
Moreover, Mona Lisa has always been exhibited in important places, including the Fontainebleau, the favorite castle of Francois, in 1519. In 1800, the painting was hung in Napoleon’s bedroom before being transferred after four years to the Louvre.
Mona Lisa and The Famous Heist
What catapulted the miniature, unassuming painting to international stardom was the fact that the Mona Lisa was stolen in the 20th century. So when the Italian Vincenzo Peruggia stole the artwork from the museum in 1911, no one could have guessed that her absence would be what made her one of the most recognizable pieces of art on the planet.
That resulted in images of the artwork being splashed across international newspapers and several headlines and reports. Moreover, there were large queues outside the museum with people just wanting to see the space where the piece had been hung.
The artistic treasure was recovered two years later, and today it helps attract more than 9.7 million visitors to the Louvre every year.
Mona Lisa’s Tour to The U.S. and Japan
A tour to the U.S. in 1963 and to Japan in 1974 elevated the celebrity status of the Mona Lisa. The painting traveled to the U.S. in its own first-class cabin on the ocean liner that delivered it to American shores.
It drew over 40,000 people daily to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Washington D.C. National Gallery of Art in Washington during its six-week visit. Moreover, about ten years later, it also drew large crowds in Japan.
How Much Is a Copy of the Mona Lisa Worth?
Over the last several decades, the original Mona Lisa has been used as an object for satire, merchandising, and reproduction (including being used in more than 2,000 adverts).
Artists such as Hekking, Duchamp, Warhol, and Dali continued to spread the image through their own derivative works. In June 2021, the Hekking Mona Lisa, a replica of Da Vinci’s painting, was sold for about $3.4 million to a European collector at Christie’s Auction House.
In 2019, another replica was sold at the Sotheby’s auction house in Paris for $611,950.
More From Artistry Found
- Here’s How Much Bob Ross (the Artist) is Worth!
- How Much Are Patrick Nagel Pictures Worth? (Revealed)
- Five Reasons Why Van Gogh is Famous (And Deserves To Be!)
- What Are The Cheapest Picasso Paintings (Revealed!)
- Painting of The Last Supper (What it’s Worth Today!)
- Van Gogh’s Starry Night Painting (What it’s Worth Today!)