Created By: FlahDecember 2, 2011 Last Edited By: FlahApril 18, 2014

The Mona Lisa Does Not Work That Way

The Mona Lisa is rarely portrayed in popular media the way it actually looks.

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Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It's one of the most discussed pieces of art in the world. Its subtleties are great mysteries have confounded art historians for centuries. And it doesn't look the way that you think it does. It was painted on a wood panel. However, in the popular media, it is often shown as being much larger than it actually is and painted on canvas. It is shown being displayed on a wall, surrounded by other paintings. However, because of its fame and fragility, it is kept in its own secure room, behind bullet-proof glass, inside of an environmentally controlled chamber.

This would be a sub-trope of Did Not Do The Research, seeing as it is available for viewing in the Louvre and there is more than enough documentation over the centuries saying what it was painted on. And yet, the misconceptions linger.

As a side-note, even I have to admit that this may be a bit too specific, and perhaps should be expanded into a general art-related trope beneath Did Not Do The Research.

Select examples include (in no particular order):

Ever After: This one is particularly bad because it actually shows da Vinci pulling the Mona Lisa out of a tube and unrolling it so that onlookers can admire it.

Star Trek The Next Generation: A collector of ancient rarities in one episode displays an unusually large Mona Lisa in his treasure trove in one episode. Then again, it might be that the collector himself Did Not Do The Research and wound up buying a fake from somebody.

Brian Greene's recent documentary series The Fabric of the Cosmos has the Mona Lisa appear in one of his segments as something far larger than it actually is.

There are many more examples, and I was even thinking of them right before I started writing this. Now I am drawing a blank. If you feel like expanding this or are inspired to create your own entry with this as the germ of the idea, you are more than free to do so.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • December 2, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    • Two Thousand Twelve - The president's daughter is involved in collecting art to be stored on The Ark. She is shown getting the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The Mona Lisa is drawn on a canvas.
  • December 2, 2011
    Micah
    • According to the Doctor Who episode "City of Death", the Mona Lisa is painted on canvas. (Also, the canvas has THIS IS A FAKE written on it in permanent marker, but that can be chalked up to the Timey Wimey Ball.)
  • December 2, 2011
    Insignificant
  • December 2, 2011
    arromdee
    I believe Heroes showed the too big version. It might have been on canvas too, but I'm not sure.
  • December 2, 2011
    Nocturna
    Er... The Mona Lisa is not in its own secure room. It's on its own wall, and it is behind glass, and I'm pretty certain that the space is climate controlled, but it's definitely not in its own room.
  • December 2, 2011
    Ultrayellow
    Your trope should say The Mona Lisa Does Not Look That Way.
  • December 2, 2011
    JonnyB
    ^I think it was supposed to be a pun, but it really doesn't work. Yours is better. "Look" or "Work", but not "Worth."

    At the beginning of the film Equilibrium, the clerics find and burn the "authenticated" Mona Lisa. That Mona Lisa is several times larger than the real Mona Lisa, and is painted on canvas instead of poplar.
  • December 3, 2011
    Flah
    Bah, wasn't a pun, just a typo. My bad there.
  • December 4, 2011
    Omeganian
    The Smile by Ray Bradbury:

    "They say she's made of oil and canvas."

    "True. And that's what makes me think she's not the original one. The original, now, I've heard, was painted on wood a long time ago."

  • December 4, 2011
    SharleeD
    Possibly this trope should be expanded to include other famous works of art (and historical documents?) that might be portrayed wrongly, e.g. if a work shows an art thief stuffing Michelangelo's David into a bag and carrying it off, despite the real statue being 17 feet tall.
  • December 4, 2011
    Specialist290
    When the trope launches, I propose we use this as the page image.
  • December 4, 2011
    Statalyzer
    I agree with Sharlee D and Specialist. A better name might be "Look" than "Work", or perhaps the title should just be generic to incorrectly portrayed works of art?
  • December 4, 2011
    Statalyzer
    I agree with Sharlee D and Specialist. A better name might be "Look" than "Work", or perhaps the title should just be generic to incorrectly portrayed works of art?
  • December 4, 2011
    Fanra
    Er... The Mona Lisa is not in its own secure room. It's on its own wall, and it is behind glass, and I'm pretty certain that the space is climate controlled, but it's definitely not in its own room.

    Not only that, but only in "modern" times has it been so protected.
  • December 4, 2011
    WackyMeetsPractical
    This would be a sub-trope of Did Not Do The Research, seeing as it is available for viewing in the Louvre and there is more than enough documentation over the centuries saying what it was painted on. And yet, the misconceptions linger.

    Might be due to The Coconut Effect in some cases. After so many depictions of the incorrect Mona Lisa, any attempt to show a proper Mona Lisa may be a bit too jarring for audiences to accept.
  • December 5, 2011
    Chabal2
    One line in Dave Barry's Tour Guide to end all Tour Guides is "Excuse me! Where is the BIG Mona Lisa?"
  • June 30, 2012
    Noah1
  • June 30, 2012
    Stratadrake
    "X Does Not Work That Way" is a discredited naming convention. Anyone got alternatives? And hopefully not an Artistic License X one.
  • July 9, 2012
    BecomeTheFuture
    Better Name: "All Mona Lisas Are Fake" / "The Mona Lisa Is Always Fake?" A parent trope could well be "Elevated Forgery," where a famous work's inaccurate depiction in media becomes so popular it's taken as the correct one?
  • July 9, 2012
    Routerie
    How about we make this Portable Art?

    About all cases where the Mona Lisa, or the Last Supper, or David, or any other famous work of art is inaccurately portrayed as rollable canvas or movable plaster? The trope exists for plot reasons - characters steal or transport the art, so it has to be portable, even if that's not true to life.

    And if the Mona Lisa (or whatever) is portayed as bigger that real life? That's a different trope.
  • July 10, 2012
    surgoshan
    Would Artistic License Art be taking it too far?
  • July 10, 2012
    Antigone3
    I like Elevated Forgery myself -- we can easily expand the description here to all famous artworks.
  • July 10, 2012
    Cider
    Does Not Look That Way. It's accurate and impossible to get wrong. Does Not Look That Way. Keep it simple.
  • July 10, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
    I find this overly narrow and not really tropeable.
  • July 10, 2012
    CobraPrime
    Gotta agree with Nocturna, the Mona Lisa is not in it's own room.
  • April 17, 2014
    Noah1
  • April 17, 2014
    Lakija
    Someone should go ahead and launch unless the O Ps around.
  • April 17, 2014
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Years ago I tried to launch something similar called You Should Have Seen It IIRC it got cut as untropeworthy.

    It included that the current mona lisa is small and greenish but every copy ever seen even in textbooks is actually a copy of a reproduction or a reproduction of a copy it's been awhile.

    Anyway, What I wanted to add was that in several statues around the world Noah is depicted as a Horned Humanoid due to a translation accident with the word halo. completely regarding a different Your Size May Vary issue.

    hope it works for you.
  • April 17, 2014
    DAN004
    What about setting the facts of Mona Lisa straight first?

    What's the wrong thing here? ML on canvas? Some other things?

  • April 18, 2014
    MonaNaito
  • April 18, 2014
    SharleeD
    Whatever happens with this trope, note that Did Not Do The Research is, itself, no longer a trope. The description should be revised accordingly.

    If this one is expanded to include other works of art, then Hollywood Artwork would be a logical title.

  • April 18, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^^^^ that's Moses, not Noah. Because vowels are ignored in Hebrew and the consonants for 'glowing' and 'horned' are the same, translating into Latin and then from that into every other language ever got it wrong.
  • April 18, 2014
    SharleeD
    Note that inaccuracies in depicting how a work of art is protected against theft probably shouldn't count for purposes of this trope, as fiction often gets that wrong on purpose to avoid giving away information to Real Life thieves and saboteurs.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable