You knew this enigmatic smile would appear eventually. Out of all the works da Vinci has done, this small painting is perhaps the most famous. The subject is thought to be Lisa Del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy silk merchant, and the painting was commissioned to celebrate the move to a new home and the birth of their second child.
“Mona” is a polite form of address from the era, similar to Madam or Ma’am. It’s the most expensive insured item in the world, worth a hundred million dollars even back in 1962 – which is around nine hundred million dollars today.
“Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley
When cabin boy Brook Watson fell overboard near Havana, Cuba, it took three attempts to rescue him from sharks. He lost his leg in the process. It took place in 1749, and in 1778 John Singleton Copley immortalized the event with this dynamic painting.
As members of the crew of the “Royal Consort,” the ship where Watson worked, struggle to reach him, a shark approaches with an open mouth. Why Watson is unclothed remains a mystery, though it's possible it was a detail added to play up the boy's vulnerability. Watson himself owned a copy until his death in 1807.
“Jack the Ripper's Bedroom” by Walter Sickert
It had only been twenty years since the reign of terror that struck the Whitechapel neighborhood of London when painter Walter Sickert painted this dark and moody scene.
Sickert is known for his dim, depressing interiors, and while many artists have been inspired by Jack the Ripper in one form or another, it's sometimes thought that this and other paintings by Sickert suggest a possible connection between him and Jacks actions – with some people even suspecting that he could be Jack himself. We may never know, but the depressing atmosphere in the painting is certainly noteworthy.
“Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli
Painted over a five-year period from 1477 to 1482, “Primavera” lacked a name for almost a hundred years before art historian Giorgio Vasari dubbed it “Primavera,” meaning “spring.” The precise meaning remains unknown even to this day, but it is an allegorical work inspired by classic mythology; it is believed to present the nymph Chloris transforming into Flora, the goddess of spring.
A member of the powerful and rich Medici clan commissioned the painting, and it's thought the figures in the painting are modeled after members of the family. Historians have lots of questions about the painting which will never be answered.
“Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci
This legendary artist might be better known for other works, but his classic portraits were still top of the line. Commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, the painting is a study in angles and features, as well as an ermine.
The Polish government bought the painting for more than a hundred million euros near the end of 2016, and it's now on display in the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków and is considered a national treasure in Poland. The subject is Cecilia Gallerani, a mistress of the duke. It was painted between 1489 and 1491.