She is that famous enigmatic face without eyebrows and only a half-smile, but who was Mona Lisa and what is the mystery of her enduring allure? History professor Donald Sassoon, purportedly the world's leading expert on the Mona Lisa, tells all in Leonardo and the Mona Lisa Story: The History of a Painting Told in Pictures.

More than 400 gorgeous color visuals illustrations, paintings and photographs are the centerpiece of Sassoon's voluptuous biography. The volume is further embellished with lively, informative captions, plus five charming and erudite essays on da Vinci's humble beginnings; how he came to paint Lisa Gherardini; the painting's rise in popularity in the literary culture of the Napoleonic Age; its theft from the Louvre; and its eventual rise to global iconic status through imitation, parody and commercial use. But why does the lady intrigue millions? Says Sassoon, the Mona Lisa' has moved outside her frame, beyond her historical context. . . . She has saturated popular culture and has become whatever others want her to be.

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