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This third programme in the series on Leonardo da Vinci begins by stating that the Mona Lisa is the most famous image in the history of art - but how and why has it become so famous? To answer this, we begin by examining the history of painting. Presenter Alan Yentob, travels to the Loire Valley, France, where in 1516 Leonardo entered the court of King Francis I, bringing the Mona Lisa with him. Alan is amazed to discover that the King kept this priceless painting in his bathroom. We follow the journey of this painting as it passes through the possession of the French Royal Family to Napoleon, for whom it was a favourite, until the revolution in 1789 when it entered the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa rested in the Louvre until 1911, when it was stolen. Alan takes us through the story of the notorious theft, a tale that takes him back to Florence, the city in which the painting was finally recovered.
But the real mystery of the Mona Lisa is her identity. Who is the woman with the famous smile? Whilst in Florence Alan decides to try and find out. He travels on to Milan where, with detective work, the name of the sitter can be discovered.
Now in knowledge of her identity, Alan questions what it is about the Mona Lisa that makes it such a remarkable painting? Of particular interest is the landscape behind the figure. Alan visits Tuscany, looking at the landscape that not only defined Leonardo’s childhood, but also informed his painting as an older man. The Arno valley wasn’t just his playground, it was his laboratory. Alan crosses the bridge that one can see in the background of the painting and marvels at some of the geological formations that Leonardo must have seen - and perhaps painted.
Alan completes his journey of Leonardo’s life and the background to the world's most famous painting in the Loire Valley, where Leonardo spent his last years - the Mona Lisa alongside him.
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