Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world, was welcomed to the United States 51 years ago today, January 8, 1963, by President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy at the National Gallery of Art.
The first couple also welcomed French Minister of Culture Andre Malraux who arranged for approval of the loan of the painting from the government of France and the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa is the work of Leonardo da Vinci* who began the painting in Florence, Italy between 1503 and 1505.
Da Vinci left the painting unfinished for many years but resumed his work completing it before his death.
The Mona Lisa, named for Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a wealthy merchant in Florence, was sold to King Francois I of France.
In his address at the National Gallery of Art, President Kennedy said:
"We in the United States are grateful for this loan from the leading artistic power in the world, France.
This painting is the second lady that the people of France have sent to the United States and though she will not stay with us as long as the Statue of Liberty, our appreciation is equally great.
Leonardo da Vinci was....an artist and a sculptor, a architect and a scientist, and a military engineer, an occupation which he pursued....in order to preserve the chief gift of nature, which is liberty.
In this belief he expresses the most profound premises of our own two nations."
*Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was born in Vinci, Italy and educated at the studio of Florentine painter, Verrocchio.
Da Vinci also worked for Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He also painted The Last Supper.