The best books about the Mona Lisa

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Mona Lisa and why they recommend each book.

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The Annotated Mona Lisa

By Carol Strickland,

Book cover of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present

This book is my top recommendation for any art newbie that comes to me asking for book ideas. Where should I start if I want to learn about art history? Start right here! The Annotated Mona Lisa is easy to read, and educational yet entertaining, and it'll help you discover everything from what cave paintings actually mean, to the difference between Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism (hint: it's right there in the name), and even how contemporary artists make work out of miscellaneous objects. Great for preteens on up.

The Annotated Mona Lisa

By Carol Strickland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Annotated Mona Lisa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 


I wrote...

ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

By Jennifer Dasal,

Book cover of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

What is my book about?

We’re all familiar with the works of Claude Monet, thanks to the ubiquitous reproductions of his water lilies on umbrellas, handbags, and. But did you also know that Monet and his cohort were trailblazing rebels whose works were originally deemed ugly and vulgar? Or how about the fact that one of Andy Warhol’s most enduring legacies involves Caroline Kennedy’s moldy birthday cake and a collection of toenail clippings?

ArtCurious is a colorful look at the world of art history, revealing some of the strangest, funniest, and most fascinating stories behind the world’s great artists and masterpieces, presenting an engaging look at why art history is, and continues to be, a riveting and relevant world to explore.

Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

By Frank Zöllner, Johannes Nathan,

Book cover of Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

The definitive account of Leonardo’s life and work by one of the world’s greatest Leonardo scholars, magnificently illustrated, clearly written, admirably objective. Frank was very generous in his advice to me, as I wrote my own book about Leonardo, though he generally takes a more favourable view of the Saudi Salvator Mundi than I do. It’s a big book but easy to dip in and out of with its Catalogue Raisonée structure of an account of the artist's life followed by essays on each painting.

Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings

By Frank Zöllner, Johannes Nathan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leonardo. the Complete Paintings and Drawings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unmatched in his ingenuity, technical prowess, and curiosity, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) epitomizes the humanistic ideal of the Renaissance man: a peerless master of painting, sculpture, cartography, anatomy, architecture-and more. Simultaneously captivating art historians, collectors, and the millions who flock yearly to admire his works, Leonardo's appeal is as diffuse as were his preoccupations. His images permeate nearly every facet of Western culture-The Vitruvian Man is engraved into millions of Euro coins, The Last Supper is considered the single most reproduced religious painting in history, and the Mona Lisa has entranced countless artists and observers for centuries.

On the occasion…


Who am I?

I fell in love with art when I was 14 on a trip to Florence with my parents. From that moment on there was hardly an exhibition in London I didn’t go and see. Over the last 20 years, I have made scores of documentaries (Art Safari) and podcasts (Art Bust) about art and written books that explore how the arts and culture intersect with economics, society, and politics. I love to research and tell stories about art: behind the most beautiful objects there often lie the most intriguing of tales, where intellect and imagination collide with ambition, greed, and vanity.


I wrote...

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

By Ben Lewis,

Book cover of The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

What is my book about?

In 2017 the Salvator Mundi was sold at auction for $450m. That dazzling price made it the world’s most expensive painting. But is it a real Leonardo? "Forensically detailed and gripping investigation into the history, discovery and sales of the painting … the Salvator Mundi … sits in 'a pool of theories, surrounded by a tangle of conjecture, suspended from a geometry of clues'." Sunday Times


"It’s a story populated by characters straight out of a thriller: the soft-spoken but ambitious art dealer, the Russian oligarch in the middle of a messy divorce, the shadowy Swiss storage king who sidelines as a dealer, the Saudi prince eager to polish his reputation with a cleansing spritz of high art." Wall Street Journal

Living with Leonardo

By Martin Kemp,

Book cover of Living with Leonardo: Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World and Beyond

Here we shift the focus to what it’s like being a Leonardist. Yes, that is a word! Oxford professor Martin Kemp is one of the world’s most in-demand Leonardo scholars. His inbox is full of emails from strangers who think they have an undiscovered Leonardo in their attic. He rebuilds Leonardo’s flying machines for museum exhibitions. And when a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting is recovered, he gets a call from the police. Somehow Kemp manages to be self-regarding and self-deprecating, accessible and a little superior at the same time, as he whisks you along on his adventures in Leonardoland.

Living with Leonardo

By Martin Kemp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living with Leonardo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living with Leonardo is a set of highly focused memoirs, a personal journey interwoven with historical research that encapsulates the author's relationship with Leonardo da Vinci over more than half a century.

We learn of his encounters with the vast population that surrounds Leonardo: great and lesser academics, collectors and curators, devious dealers and unctuous auctioneers, major scholars and authors and pseudohistorians and fantasists; but also how he has grappled with swelling legions of 'Leonardo loonies', walked on the eggshells of vested interests in academia and museums, and fended off fusillades of non-Leonardos, sometimes more than one a week. Kemp…

Who am I?

I fell in love with art when I was 14 on a trip to Florence with my parents. From that moment on there was hardly an exhibition in London I didn’t go and see. Over the last 20 years, I have made scores of documentaries (Art Safari) and podcasts (Art Bust) about art and written books that explore how the arts and culture intersect with economics, society, and politics. I love to research and tell stories about art: behind the most beautiful objects there often lie the most intriguing of tales, where intellect and imagination collide with ambition, greed, and vanity.


I wrote...

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

By Ben Lewis,

Book cover of The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

What is my book about?

In 2017 the Salvator Mundi was sold at auction for $450m. That dazzling price made it the world’s most expensive painting. But is it a real Leonardo? "Forensically detailed and gripping investigation into the history, discovery and sales of the painting … the Salvator Mundi … sits in 'a pool of theories, surrounded by a tangle of conjecture, suspended from a geometry of clues'." Sunday Times


"It’s a story populated by characters straight out of a thriller: the soft-spoken but ambitious art dealer, the Russian oligarch in the middle of a messy divorce, the shadowy Swiss storage king who sidelines as a dealer, the Saudi prince eager to polish his reputation with a cleansing spritz of high art." Wall Street Journal

The Short Story of Art

By Susie Hodge,

Book cover of The Short Story of Art: A Pocket Guide to Key Movements, Works, Themes, & Techniques (Art History Introduction, a Guide to Art)

I love this book! Like the idea of The Annotated Mona Lisa but don’t want quite so much detail? This one is great— let’s take 50 works of art throughout art history and tell you exactly why they are important. Easy peasy, and filled with humor and joy, too. 

The Short Story of Art

By Susie Hodge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Short Story of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Short Story of Art is a new and innovative introduction to the subject of art. Simply constructed, the book explores 50 key works, from the wall paintings of Lascaux to contemporary installations, and then links these to sections on art movements, themes and techniques.

The design of the book allows the student or art enthusiast to easily navigate their way around key periods, artists and styles. Accessible and concise, it simplifies and explains the most important and influential concepts in art, and shows how they are connected.

The book explains how, why and when art changed, who introduced certain…

Who am I?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 


I wrote...

ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

By Jennifer Dasal,

Book cover of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

What is my book about?

We’re all familiar with the works of Claude Monet, thanks to the ubiquitous reproductions of his water lilies on umbrellas, handbags, and. But did you also know that Monet and his cohort were trailblazing rebels whose works were originally deemed ugly and vulgar? Or how about the fact that one of Andy Warhol’s most enduring legacies involves Caroline Kennedy’s moldy birthday cake and a collection of toenail clippings?

ArtCurious is a colorful look at the world of art history, revealing some of the strangest, funniest, and most fascinating stories behind the world’s great artists and masterpieces, presenting an engaging look at why art history is, and continues to be, a riveting and relevant world to explore.

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