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Mona Lisa Smile

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" this painting of Leonardo's there was a smile so pleasing that it seemed divine rather than human; and those who saw it were amazed to find that it was as alive as the original."
Giorgio Vasari, Lives of The Artists (trans. George Bull)

Because The Mona Lisa is such a famous piece of art (Small Reference Pools at work again), the painting in its entirety—or the lady-in-the-painting's enigmatic, not-quite-reaching-the-eyes coy smirk—show up quite a bit in Homages, Shout Outs, and outright parodies.

Has nothing to do with the film of the same name.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Toradora!: Taiga, after torturing Ami by forcing her to do multiple impersonations, uses threats of impersonations to come in order to control her. The best of the bunch? "Mona Lisa taking a corner at 250 miles per hour." Just picture it for a minute and TRY not to laugh.
  • Yoshinoya-sensei from Hidamari Sketch has the painting.
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable, the main villain's unhealthy fascination with (severed) hands starts after seeing a Mona Lisa painting.

    Card Games 
  • In the card game Chrononauts, there are a set of three Artifact cards: Mona Lisa (Obvious Forgery), Mona Lisa (Excellent Forgery) and Mona Lisa (Real Thing). When more than one is in play, the Excellent Forgery trumps the Obvious Forgery, while the Real Thing beats both.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman Elseworld "Dark Masterpiece" parallels a modern art-theft (by the gallery owner) being prevented by Batman with the kidnapping of Lisa del Giocondo herself (by her husband) being prevented by Leonardo's apprentice in a Renaissance-style bat-costume. It ends with Leonardo asking Lisa what her secretive smile is about, and being told that she's pregnant, and he's the father.
  • In Booster Gold, the Mona Lisa is Booster's sister. Booster comes back to get his sister and tells Leonardo he's taking her back to Rome. Leonardo, who had the face all done, struggled to grasp the rest of her after she left. He decided, due to personal preference, to give her dark hair and change her clothing because she had been wearing her costume while he was drawing... and that would have looked stupid.
  • In October 2011, Marvel did a series of vampire variant covers to tie in with X-Men: Curse of the Mutants. The cover for S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 (in which Leonardo is a main character) was a vampire Mona Lisa.
  • De Kiekeboes: One of the ancestors of Jeanne Darm in the story "Jeanne Darm" is painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the Mona Lisa pose.
  • Cubitus: One gag has Semaphore painting a copy of the Mona Lisa. Cubitus suggests some alterations and paints his own face over it.
  • One Donald Duck comic had the poor duck nigh-lovestruck by the Duck Universe Mona Lisa equivalent. It soon turned out that Donald's ancestor, or previous incarnation perhaps, was Leonardo's helper. Mona Lisa herself was a duck of really nasty disposition, which made painting her favorably problematic. After many futile attempts, what finally got the smile on her face was the sight of Renaissance Donald and Leonardo getting into a fight after the former wrecked the latter's laboratory.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in The Far Side, with a painting of some guy with a gigantic nose and one of the viewers comments "Gad that's eerie, wherever you go the nose follows you!"
  • In Safe Havens, Leonardo da Vinci (who, it should be noted, is both a time traveler and currently a child) promises to his childhood friend Candide that when they'll older, he'll come back to the future to paint her. Candide is then seen smiling in the Mona Lisa pose, hinting that she's the true identity of the Mona Lisa.

    Fan Works 
  • The Mona Lisa is moderately common in photoshop contests featuring famous artworks. The Mona Leia is one of the better results of such.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Hudson Hawk Leonardo da Vinci is shown with the Mona Lisa, which is finished except for the mouth. Then we see why: when the model opens her mouth, she has very bad teeth. The joke is that Leonardo decided to give her the enigmatic smile so he wouldn't have to show the teeth.
  • In Equilibrium, Mona Lisa is one of the paintings which is captured and burned in the opening. Adding to the tragedy is that the main character, initially a ruthless enforcer of the totalitarian regime, has no idea about the significance of it.
  • Parodied outright in Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra. To their credit, Monica Bellucci makes a hot Mona Lisa. Cleopatra complains being tired of profile art and would prefer a three-quarters angle, proceeding to copy the famous pose, complete with similar hairstyle and outfit.
  • In the Spanish short film La Gioconda Esta Triste (The Mona Lisa is Sad) the Mona Lisa stops smiling, and so does every single painted, drawn, photographed or videotaped reproduction of the painting. Not only that, but at the same time everyone on Earth also forgets how to smile. Against a background of international tension, environmental destruction and terrorist threats scientists try to solve the mystery. They finally conclude that the Mona Lisa's sadness represents that of the entire world, and only way to save the world is for everybody to try to smile again. But it's too late - everybody starts weeping, and the world ends.
  • Ever After - Leonardo shows off his latest work (the famous painting, inaccurately depicted as on a medium that can be rolled and stored in a tube) when introducing himself.

  • Discworld:
    • Mona Ogg, painted by Leonard of Quirm, and eventually confirmed to be of the witch Nanny Ogg in her younger days (she weighs the same, but as Granny Weatherwax nastily remarks, "it's shifted." The teeth follow you around the room.
    • This is the cover of The Art of Discworld. The model has an enormous grin. Nanny Ogg being Nanny Ogg, this was probably because she was about to tell a dirty joke.
  • Crowley in Good Omens possesses an early sketch of the Mona Lisa, which he thinks is superior. Apparently, Leonardo agreed:
    "I got her bloody smile right in the roughs," he told Crowley, sipping cold wine in the lunchtime sun, "but it went all over the place when I painted it. Her husband had a few things to say about it when I delivered it, but, like I tell him, Signor del Giocondo, apart from you, who's going to see it? Anyway ... explain this helicopter thing again, would you?"
  • There's a passage in The Godfather where Lucy Mancini, after Sonny Corleone's death, tells her new lover about her affair with Sonny. When she says, "I did everything with Sonny," she's got what the new guy thinks of as a Mona Lisa Smile, and he can't help wondering if this explains what La Gioconda was smiling about.
  • In Naked Came the Stranger, Gillian smiles like this while she rejects Mario. Mario now realizes why Mona Lisa is smiling - because she knows she's unattainable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used a few times in Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The City of Death" the villain gets Leonardo to paint several copies of the Mona Lisa so he (the villain) could sell them multiple times to facilitate his evil plot. The Doctor foils this plan by writing "This Is A Fake" in felt tip on the boards Leonardo uses. Naturally, this means the one hanging in the Louvre also has "This Is A Fake" written under the painting, but the Doctor says that if people have to x-ray it to know if it's any good, they deserve to think it's a fake.
  • Mona is taken out of her portrait so Alex can cheat on a test in Wizards of Waverly Place. She ends up going back in wearing one of Harper's home made necklaces.
  • She comes out of her portrait in The Sarah Jane Adventures. She traps people in paintings and searches for her "brother", another painting made using the same oils.
  • Lisa is a main character in Leonardo. The first time Leo paints her, his patron's reaction is "What's wrong with her mouth?"
  • The Wild Wild West: Artemus Gordon's smile when he has an "Ah-ha!" moment is described as this.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: the painting is part of Kivas Fajo's collection in The Most Toys. Data tries to imitate her smile while admiring it.

  • The Nat King Cole song "Mona Lisa."
  • This concert poster for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Referred to as the Mona Zappa.
  • The Miracle by Queen mentions Mona Lisa's smile as a miracle.
  • "Te Aviso, Te Anuncio", the spanish version of "Objection (Tango)" from Shakira includes the lyrics "Por tí me quedé como Mona Lisa, sin llanto y sin sonrisa" note 

    Print Media 

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing lets you buy the Mona Lisa, here called the "famous painting", from Crazzy Redd or (on rare occasions) Tom Nook.
  • There's also a mission in Elite Beat Agents where the agents help "Leonard" paint his masterpiece. Try and guess what it is.
  • The iconic portrait of the Holy Mother Sophia in Xenogears.
  • One episode of the weird Cho Aniki shooter series has a floating Mona Lisa that shoots Eye Beams. No, really.
  • One scene in Panic takes place in a museum displaying the Mona Lisa. Among the ways you can mess with her are making her comically obese, turning her into Medusa (leading to Slap getting petrified) or a werewolf, or causing a mountain climber to emerge from her cleavage and climb his way up her face to the top of her head.
  • One of the bosses in Miitopia is a fire-breathing Mona Lisa painting with the face of the Dancing Guide.
  • In Persona 5, in-universe there is the "Sayuri" painting of a woman with a saddened expression. Art critics have spent years trying to figure out the meaning behind her expression. It turns out it is a self-portrait of a mother who knows she will be dying soon and leaving behind her infant son. The villain of that arc deliberately painted over the infant baby in order to invoke this trope to create an unsolvable mystery, thus making the painting and "their" art more sellable.
  • In Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, you have to coax the original Mona Lisa smile out of Leonardo's surly model in order to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Leonardo da Vinci takes on the appearance of the Mona Lisa herself in Fate/Grand Order.
  • In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, Queen's mansion is decorated with dozens of paintings that resemble the Mona Lisa, but depict her likeness, doing the upside down "OK" hand gesture. Said paintings also breathe fire.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in Harvey Rothman's "Foxy Gets Hooked." The "Kid's Corner," a bulletin board of drawings by kids who visited Freddy Fazbear's, inexplicably contains a very detailed painting of Freddy in the style of the Mona Lisa.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Daria has a Mona Lisa smile, a description popular in Fan Fic. The cover of The Daria Diaries is a homage to this.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a pair of x-ray glasses is used on the Mona Lisa, revealing a bra underneath.
    • In the Pepe Le Pew cartoon "Louvre Come Back To Me", Pepe pursues his hapless female victim through the Louvre, finally chasing her through the museum air-vents. His distinctive aroma drifts through the museum, driving assorted masterpieces to Wild Takes (like causing the American Gothic Couple to tuck their heads away, or causing two of the farmers from Milet's "The Gleaners" to run off like marathon racers when the third one fires a starting pistol). The last shot is the Mona Lisa.
      Mona Lisa: I can tell you chaps one thing: it's not always easy to hold this smile.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door featured a Macaroni museum of art, where the centerpiece was the "Rainbow Monkey Lisa", a picture of a Rainbow Monkey in the typical pose and smile. Made completely out of macaroni.
  • In Courage the Cowardly Dog, the family visits the Louvre, and Muriel ends up being trapped in the Mona Lisa when a series of events causes all of the works of art to come alive.
  • In her first appearance (of two) on Darkwing Duck, Splatter Phoenix steals the Mona Lisa's smile with intent to ransom it back.
  • In Madeline, the girls visit the Louvre, they naturally go see the painting and Chloe and Nicole argue about if she's smiling or not. Later, when Madeline is searching the Louvre for her own painting she brought with her and lost, she seems to wordlessly also ask the pieces of art if they've seen it, to which the Mona Lisa comes to life and shrugs.
  • All the works of art stolen by The Collector in the Sushi Pack episode "But is it Art?" were parodies of famous paintings, including "The Groaning Pizza," a pizza-faced person in Mona Lisa's pose, but with a distinct frown.
  • One episode of The Pink Panther deals with Leonardo da Vinci having finished the painting sans smile. He wants her to frown, but the Panther keeps sneaking behind his back and painting a smile much to his frustration.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: In one episode of "Peabody's Improbable History", Peabody and Sherman help Michelangelo out when the Mona Lisa won't smile for her painting due to a bad toothache. They are able to extract the tooth by the end of the episode, but it turns out to be a front tooth that was bothering her, so she can only produce a slight smile. Peabody tells Michelangelo that "that half-smile will be the making of this painting".
  • On Time Squad, they used the joke that she had very bad teeth which is why Leonardo decided to give her the smile so her teeth wouldn't show.
  • The Simpsons:
    • One episode has the title "Moanin' Lisa".
    • "Treehouse Of Horror I": In the third segment ("The Raven") the painting of Lenore features Marge in a Mona Lisa pose.
    • "Treehouse Of Horror IV": One of the paintings in the background during Bart's introduction features Marge in a Mona Lisa pose.
      • In the third segment of "Treehouse Of Horror IV" Chief Wiggum and his police corps destroy all museums "to prevent mummies from rising". Lou throws a copy of the Mona Lisa on the fire, to which Wiggum simply says: "Nice work, Lou."
  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: When Ronald and friends visit Sundae's cousin Scotty in "The Monster O'McDonaldland Loch", one of the paintings in his castle's art gallery is a canid version of the Mona Lisa called the Mona Lhasa Apso.
  • In the animated version of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, the title thief starts stealing various facial features from famous works of art. When she's got everything but the mouth, Zack asks: "who has the most famous smile in all the world?" The answer is of course, this trope (and not "Tom Cruise" as Ivy dreamily suggests).
  • The Johnny Bravo episode "The Johnny Bravo Affair" begins with Johnny and his mother Bunny looking at paintings, one of which is a pastiche of the Mona Lisa called the Rover Lisa where the subject is a dog.

    Real Life 
  • Salvador Dalí painted one with himself as the "lady".
  • There are crazy speculations out there that the Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait (while crossdressed).
  • Street artist Banksy has a work with Mona Lisa holding a rocket-propelled grenade on her shoulder.
  • Marcel Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q" is the Mona Lisa with a goatee and a mustache drawn on, and the letters L.H.O.O.Q., a faux acronym which sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul"note .
  • Belgian cartoonist Gal parodied this painting with several celebrities, including Jimmy Carter.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Mona Lisa Smile


The Wallflower

Sunako imitates various famous paintings in a photoshoot, much to the photographer's aggravation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArtImitatesArt

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