Mona Lisa has become the synonym for “great”, “magnificent”, “sublime” art. Mona Lisa’s smile lives a life on its own. Everybody has heard of this painting, nowadays everybody knows how it looks like (for more on that topic check Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Why?
It is in fact a good painting, from a technical point of view. But is there truly something great about it? It seems that, yes, there is something fascinating and peculiar in the smugness of Mona’s face expression. But is it enough? Or does its “greatness” lie in the fact that so many people want to see greatness in it? Or did its popular fame make it “great”? And if it’s not in fact special, from an art historical point of view, then is it just a proof of the masses’ praise of mediocrity?
PS: Raphael’s Sistine Madonna is and was not in the Louvre but in the Zwinger in Dresden.