? When it comes to the world of artistic expression, bigger is not always better. Sure, we all admire the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of New York or the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of Paris, but the Little Mermaid also serves as a symbol of Copenhagen, though it is actually made in proportionate human size. And though many tourists have walked away from the mermaid rather disappointed that there was no restaurant located at the top, those who linger and really look at her also start to wonder about her. Especially her facial expression captivates, as the observer questions whether she looks happy or not. What is she looking for, what is her state of mind? Paris actually also has one equally famous artistic work, that has neither the size of the Eiffel Tower nor the restaurant at the top. It was even created by an Italian. This piece of art, though small in size, also fascinates mainly because of the expression on the depicted woman's face. I am talking, of course, about the Mona Lisa. Even before Dan Brown named a book after the Mona Lisa's creator, the Mona Lisa was the probably most recognized piece of art ever made. When it was sent on tour to the United States in 1962-3, it was valued at USD 100 million, which equals about USD 700 Million today, making it the most valuable painting in the world. This for a painting that measures only 77x53 cm. The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in around 1503-06. The painting itself is named for Lisa Del Giocondo, who was a member of the Gheradini family of Florence and Tuscany fame. She was the wife of a wealthy silk merchant who was also the purveyor of the painting. While painted by Da Vinci, the Mona Lisa did not actually achieve wide recognition or fame until the mid- to late nineteenth century when the emerging symbolist artistic movement began to appreciate it for its feminine mystique and power. The Mona Lisa was seen as the mythic embodiment of female qualities older almost than time itself. Details like the ambiguity of the subject's expression, along with other novel qualities like the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were increasingly appreciated and understood and continue to fascinate up to this day. Da Vinci's use of pyramid designs to place Mona Lisa in the painting, his use of light to create a geometry in the painting, the way her positioning helps to create such shapes and the visual distance Leonardo da Vinci creates using among other the armrest of the chair, all serve to continuously fascinate viewers. Of course, such fame comes at a price. The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 by an Italian nationalist. Though it was returned after he was caught in 1913, this was not until it had been on a full tour of Italy. It has also been attacked with rocks, acid paint and such, and can therefore today only be viewed through bulletproof glass. However, should you happen be in Paris, after the Eiffel, the Montmartre and the Champ Elyse, go to the Louvre and take in the smallest but definitely not least famous, among the treasures of the city.
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