Listening to Art

05.06: Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume five, number six: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This recording is different from others because it is the only one where I had to line up to see the painting, and the recording includes that process. In fact, I had to line up twice: first to enter the room where the painting hangs, and then to get close to it.

When I visited the Louvre in Paris, Mona Lisa was not in its usual room. Because of some construction it had been moved to the Richelieu wing and put in the Medici Gallery. This room holds two dozen large paintings by Peter Paul Rubens that depict scenes from the life of Marie de’ Medici, the wife of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII.

It took four minutes to get through the line outside that room. I happened to be on the right floor already, which was lucky, because people were also being made to wait on the floor below before walking up the inactive escalator to join the queue. Once we got to the entrance of the Medici Gallery we entered into another snaking line that took about four-and–half minutes to get through.

If you measured the number of photos taken per minute per square meter then I think the area around the Mona Lisa would have one of the highest rankings in the world. Most people were using their phones so there are few shutter clicks to be heard, but they were taking pictures and videos of themselves, their families, the Rubens paintings which were otherwise ignored, the Mona Lisa through the crowd, themselves again, their families again, the Mona Lisa through the crowd again, and so on.

Finally, at the end of the queue, there was a small area where one could stand briefly to take a photo a couple of meters away from the painting, which is shielded by bullet-proof glass. The last thirty seconds or so of the recording were done there.

This is a painting, oil on wood, 53 cm wide by 77 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, recorded at the Louvre, in Paris, on 18 July 2019.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Musée du Louvre. “Portrait de Lisa Gherardini, épouse de Francesco del Giocondo, dite Monna Lisa, la Gioconda ou la Joconde.” Site officiel du musée du Louvre.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Leonardo da Vinci,”

⸻, s.v. “Marie de’ Medici cycle,”

⸻, s.v. “Mona Lisa,”