A short fifteen minute walk along the Seine after my visit to Musée d'Orsay, and across the Pont des Arts bridge (look that one up my friends and you will find a very romantic and interesting story) brought me to the gem of all art museums; the Louvre.
Having been built in 1793, the Louvre is the largest art museum in the world and home to over 38,000 works of art. With almost ten million visitors a year it is the most visited art museum in the world. And for good reason; it houses some of the most famous and iconic works of art ever produced by man. And though there are several incredible artists’ works on display here, there is one that tops my list, the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. A household name, Leonardo lived from 1452 until 1519, and was a polymath (an individual whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems) of the High Renaissance, being as much an engineer as an artist. Some critics consider him to be the most accomplished artist of all time. Properly named Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, Leonardo was born out of wedlock to a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, in Vinci, in the region of Florence, Italy, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Italian painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, and he later worked in Rome, Bologna, and Venice. He spent his last three years in France, where he died in 1519.
Although he had no formal academic training, many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "Renaissance Man" or "Universal Genius", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination." He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote." Scholars interpret his view of the world as being based in logic, though the empirical methods he used were unorthodox for his time. One of his most famous paintings, now housed in Milan Italy, is The Last Supper, a painting filled with as much mystery as wonderment of story and embodies the Christian faith.
But the one I actually get to see today is the world famous lady, the Mona Lisa. There is not an adult or student in this world that can’t visualize her face when hearing her name.
The Mona Lisa is a portrait painting in oils on a poplar panel of noblewoman Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Started between 1503 and 1506, it is believed that he may have continued work on her until 1517. The painting holds the Guinness World Record for the highest known insurance valuation at $100 million in 1962, about $660 million in today’s dollars.
As some of you know, one of the fun things I like to do is introduce young (and old) art enthusiasts to the Chicago Art Institute, where one can indulge themselves for hours into the works of the great masters as well as lesser known artists. An hour and a half train ride to downtown Chicago from Milwaukee’s Intermodal station and a 15 minute walk from Union Station to the Institute, I am your official escort on a day trip to experience the wonders of the Art Institute of Chicago. Give me a call or email if you have an interest!