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Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

A Life Discovered

Everybody knows her smile, but no one knows her story: Meet the flesh-and-blood woman who became one of the most famous artistic subjects of all time—Mona Lisa.

A genius immortalized her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Every year more than 9 million visitors trek to view her portrait in the Louvre.Yet while everyone recognizes her smile, hardly anyone knows her story. Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, a blend of biography, history, and memoir, truly is a book of discovery—about the world’s most recognized face, most revered artist, and most praised and parodied painting. Who was she, this ordinary woman who rose to such extraordinary fame? Why did the most renowned painter of her time choose her as his model? What became of her? And why does her smile enchant us still?

Lisa Gherardini (1479-1542) was a quintessential woman of her times, caught in a whirl of political upheavals, family dramas, and public scandals. Her life spanned the most tumultuous chapters in the history of Florence—and of the greatest artistic outpouring the world has ever seen. Her story creates an extraordinary tapestry of Renaissance Florence, with larger-than-legend figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli.

Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua, became obsessed with finding the real Mona Lisa on repeated trips to Florence. In Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, she takes readers with her to meet Lisa’s descendants; uncover her family’s long and colorful history; and explore the neighborhoods where she lived as a girl, a wife, and a mother. In the process, we can participate in Lisa’s daily rituals; understand her personal relationships; and see, hear, smell, and taste “her” Florence. Hales brings to life a time poised between the medieval and the modern, a vibrant city bursting into fullest bloom, and a culture that redefined the possibilities of man—and of woman.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451658965 | 
  • August 2014
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Video

History in Five: Discovering The Real Mona Lisa

Dianna Hales, author of Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, tells us five things about the real, flesh-and-blood woman who became one of the most famous artistic subjects of all time—Mona Lisa.

Read an Excerpt

Mona Lisa 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... see more

About the Author

Dianne Hales
Photograph by Julia Ann Hales

Dianne Hales

Dianne Hales is a prize-winning, widely published journalist and author. The President of Italy awarded her an honorary knighthood in recognition of her bestselling book, La Bella Lingua. Her other works include Just Like a Woman; Caring for the Mind; and the leading  college health textbook, An Invitation to Health. She has served as a contributing editor for Parade, Ladies Home Journal, Working Mother, and American Health and has written for many national publications, including Family Circle,Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, and Woman’s Day. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.

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