On 8 January 1963 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. set a precedent for the blockbuster museum shows that dominated the rest of the century.

By Jean Marie Carey

On 8 January 1963 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. set a precedent for the blockbuster museum shows that dominated the rest of the century. The one-painting loan from the Musée du Louvre of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa (c. 1503) drew more than 500,000 visitors through 4 March, when the exhibition moved for another month to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The podcast on the Gallery’s website, “Mona Lisa in Camelot: First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the 1963 Exhibition of the Mona Lisa,“by Margaret Leslie Davis recounts the eventful visit.

“This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery,” the NGA’s website drolly notes, but the museum does hold a large number of other paintings by equally notable Italian Renaissance artists.

Reference: Reference: Bülent Atalay. Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2004.


First Lady of the United States Jackie Kennedy and French Minister of Culture André Malraux watch President John F. Kennedy give a speech to welcome the Mona Lisa to the National Gallery. Washington, D.C. 1963. Photo: Erich Hartmann.

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi. The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1450. National  Gallery of Art, Nr. 1952.2.2.

Biagio d’Antonio and Workshop. The Triumph of Camillus, c. 1470. National  Gallery of Art, Nr. 1939.1.153.

Masolino da Panicale. The Annunciation, c. 1423. National  Gallery of Art, Nr. 1937.1.16.

Benvenuto di Giovanni. The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1475. National  Gallery of Art, Nr. 1937.1.10.


Further Reading: Timothy Hyman. Sienese Painting: The Art of a City-Republic (1278-1477). New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson 2003.

James H. Beck. Italian Renaissance Painting. Köln: Könemann,1999.

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