Great Paintings of the World with Andrew Marr

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Series 1 - Episode 1 Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci



It’s hard to imagine Simon Schama devoting a programme to the Mona Lisa. Come on, she’s art’s queen of clichés, a tourist magnet drawing crowds to grab selfies. But snobbery be damned, because Andrew Marr opens his series on great paintings by properly examining why this modest portrait – not even his favourite work by Leonardo da Vinci, he says – has become the most recognisable work of art there is.

He does a good job, too, taking us back to the “culturally swaggering” world of Renaissance Florence, where Leonardo was in his 50s by the time he set about painting the young wife of one of his father’s clients. That sideways pose and direct gaze were revolutionary, we gather; the use of “sfumato” blurring around her mouth was the special effect that brought the about-to-smile half-smile to life; and it wasn’t until 1911 that the painting became a global celebrity – by being stolen.


The broadcaster and journalist examines the stories behind famous works of art, beginning by focusing on Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. He pays a visit to the Louvre, where millions of visitors queue for hours for a fleeting glimpse of the iconic work, and traces the portrait's history, uncovering stories of groundbreaking artistic experimentation and gruesome dissections and one of the most audacious art thefts of the 20th century.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Andrew Marr
Director Joss Cubitt
Director Simon Smith
Executive Producer Ollie Tait
Producer Joss Cubitt
Producer Simon Smith
Series Producer Rachel Ozers
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