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Mona Lisa:

A Life Discovered

A genius immortalized her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Every year millions of visitors trek to view her portrait in the Louvre. Yet while everyone recognizes her smile, no one knows her story. Meet the woman who became the most famous artistic subject of all time.

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered blends biography, history and memoir to introduce Mona (Madame) Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo—daughter of Florence, woman of the Renaissance, wife, mother and muse. Intrigued by new findings confirming the identity of Leonardo’s model, Dianne Hales set off on a personal quest for the flesh-and-blood woman in the world’s most praised and parodied painting.

Who was this ordinary woman who rose to such extraordinary fame? Why did the most renowned painter of her time choose her as his model? What became of her? And why does her smile enchant us still?

Mona Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, a quintessential woman of her times, was caught in a whirl of political upheavals, family dramas and public scandals. Descended from ancient nobles, she was born and baptized in Florence in 1479. Wed to a truculent businessman twice her age, she gave birth to six children and died at age sixty-three in 1542.

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered transports readers to the squalid street where Lisa was born, traces her colorful family history and captures the tumult and pageantry of Renaissance Florence. Her story creates an extraordinary tapestry of daily life in a city bursting into fullest bloom and a culture that redefined the possibilities of man—and of woman.


“I’m enthralled by every page of Dianne Hales’s Mona Lisa… Anyone who loves art and Italy—and who doesn’t?—will adore this book.”
—Frances Mayes
“This is cultural history that reads like a detective novel…a fascinating portrait not just of Lisa Gherardini but also of the vibrant Renaissance world that nurtured both Lisa and Leonardo’s painting.”
—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome
“Entertaining…Combining history, whimsical biography, personal travelogue and love letter to Italy, this book portrays Lisa Gherardini as a Renaissance Everywoman.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Biography, history and memoir are woven together in Hales’ lyrical biography of Lisa Gherardini.”

“An affectionate my-search-for story for art lovers and anyone interested in glorious and gory Florence in the 15th to 16th centuries and in the divine Leonardo in particular.”
—USA Today
“A detailed and fascinating book that’s scholarly yet presented in a way that’s easy to understand and fun to read…highly recommended.”
— Italy Travel
“Anyone who reads Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered will never see the image again the same way. They will appreciate more the woman depicted, not just the artist.”
—San Antonio Express News


“Go Away with…Dianne Hales” (Chicago Tribune)
“Book Brahmin: Dianne Hales,” Shelf Awareness
The Life of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the (Most Likely) Real ‘Mona Lisa’ (The Daily Beast)
Mona Lisa Mania: Our Bizarre Infatuation with That ‘Happy Woman’ (Biographile)
5 Things You Never Knew about Mona Lisa (Metro U.S.)
The 10 Worst Things That Happened to Mona Lisa (Huffington Post)
Tuscan Traveler’s Picks—A New Book on the Life of Mona Lisa
How Mona Lisa’s Smile Led to Love Affairs and Suicides (New York Post)
Mona Lisa: Bay Area Author Finds the Woman Behind the Smile (L’Italo-Americano)
Can Mona Lisa Rest in Peace? (Huffington Post)
The Real Mona Lisa Turns 535 (Huffington Post)
A CNN Summer Entertainment Guide best book
One of USA Today’s 30 “hottest titles this season”
A BBC Book of the Week!
A Library Journal nonfiction top pick for August 2014
Featured Alternate of the History Book Club, Book of the Month Club, BOMC2,
Military Book Club, Scientific American Book Club, and Quality Paperback Book Club

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