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Leonardo Da Vinci, La Giocanda, 1503.


It’s the best-known painting in the world, and art historians are almost certain they know who it depicts. So why is there so much mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa?

The clue to its identity is thought to lie in Giorgio Vasari’s book The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), which gives a description of an artwork “for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife.” (The painting’s other famous moniker, La Gioconda, derives from both the feminine of Giocondo and from her legendary smile—Mona Lisa is “the jocund one.”)

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