From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda. (La Joconde), is a 16th century oil painting on poplar wood by Leonardo da Vinci, and is one of the most famous paintings in the world. Any work of art has been subject to as much scrutiny, study, mythologizing and parody. It is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The painting, a half-length portrait, depicts a woman whose gaze meets the viewer's with an expression often described as enigmatic. It is considered to be Leonardo's magnum opus.
Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1502 (during the Italian Renaissance) and, according to Vasari, "after he had lingered over it four years, left it unfinished...." He is thought to have continued to work on it for three years after he moved to France and to have finished shortly before he died in 1519.
The avant-garde art world has made note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. Already in 1883, Le rire, an image of a Mona Lisa Smoking a Pipe, by Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), was shown at the "Incoherents" show in Paris. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential modern artists, created L.H.O.O.Q., a Mona Lisa parody made by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (literally translated: "she has a hot ass". This is a manner of implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability). This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modelled on Duchamp's own face.
French artist Jean Metzinger, who was influenced by Fauvism and Impressionism, painted Le Goûter ("The Taste", 1911), showing a female nude drinking tea, which is often called the "Mona Lisa of Cubism", a movement that the painter was associated with from 1908, and in fact he was influenced by Da Vinci's picture. The influence of the Mona Lisa goes beyond painting, reaching the film composition of The General Line (1929), by Eisenstein, who said he was also influenced by the Madonna of the Rocks.
Salvador Dalí, famous for his surrealist work, painted Self portrait as Mona Lisa in 1954. In 1963 following the painting's visit to the United States, Andy Warhol created serigraph prints of multiple Mona Lisas called Thirty are Better than One, like his works of Marilyn Monroe (Twenty-five Coloured Marilyns, 1962), Elvis Presley (1964) and Campbell's soup (1961–1962).