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The Mona Lisa, one of the most iconic paintings in western art, was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in Florence in 1503. It accompanied him to France in 1517 and eventually passed to the Louvre.

Why did Leonardo keep this painting with him until his death? What is its place in the history of portraiture? When did the Mona Lisa become an international celebrity? She has inspired artists and writers from Freud to Warhol, Dalì to Dan Brown, as well as songs and films. She went on a ‘state visit’ to Washington, meeting President Kennedy and Jackie; she has been vandalised and stolen. This lecture looks at the reasons for her fame – and incidentally, explains why she is smiling!

Paula Nuttall lectures for the Courtauld Institute, Christie’s Education, The Art Fund and the National Gallery.