Chapter 1 Una Donna Vera (A Real Woman)
A genius immortalized her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Poets lauded her. Singers crooned of her. Advertisers exploited her.
No face has ever captivated so many for so long. Every year more than 9 million visitors trek to her portrait in the Louvre. Like most, I stared at the masterpiece but never thought much about its subject.
Then I went to Florence—not once, but again and again. As a tourist, I explored its...