Internet Abuzz Over AI-Generated 'Photograph' of Leonardo Da Vinci and 'Mona Lisa' Model

"Why did he paint her when he could just take a picture? Is he stupid?" one Reddit user asked.

Published Nov 23, 2023

 (X user @TheDeshBhakt)
Image Via X user @TheDeshBhakt

"Rare photograph of Mona Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci taken in Florence in 1504 on Antiques Roadshow. Very cool," an X post claimed on Nov. 18, 2023. It had over 390,000 views. "Leonardo da Vinci with the model who posed as Mona Lisa. Believed to be taken about 1508 or 1509," another post claimed.

This alleged "photograph" of the model who posed for "Mona Lisa" and Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, draftsman, architect, engineer, and scientist who painted the picture, was widely shared on social media. "Rare photograph of Mona Lisa with Painter & Polymath Leonardo da Vinci. Did you see this before??" another post on X claimed. The image was also shared on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and 9GAG.

It was, of course, a gag.

TinEye reverse image search results showed that the image was first shared back in June 2023 on Imgur, an online image-sharing website. However, the Imgur post redirected to a Reddit post and it turned out that the image was first shared on a /fakehistory subreddit in May 2023 with a caption reading, "Leonardo Da Vinci and Mona Lisa 1504."

Leonardo Da Vinci and Mona Lisa 1504
byu/GodsendNYC infakehistoryporn

"I vote for an AI image ban in this sub," on Reddit user commented on the original post. As various comments suggested, the image was created using Artificial Intelligence (AI) software.

Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is probably the world’s most famous painting. As Encyclopedia Britannica's article on the topic informs, it was painted in early 16th century:

It was painted sometime between 1503 and 1519, when Leonardo was living in Florence, and it now hangs in the Louvre Museum, Paris, where it remained an object of pilgrimage in the 21st century. The sitter’s mysterious smile and her unproven identity have made the painting a source of ongoing investigation and fascination.

Importantly, the first photograph wasn't captured until the 19th century, as Encyclopedia Britannica reports:

In 1826/27, using a camera obscura fitted with a pewter plate, Niépce produced the first successful photograph from nature, a view of the courtyard of his country estate, Gras, from an upper window of the house. The exposure time was about eight hours, during which the sun moved from east to west so that it appears to shine on both sides of the building.

(Getty Images)

It's not the first time we've fact-checked a rumor related to Leonardo da Vinci. For instance, in November 2017, we investigated whether Leonardo da Vinci's dying words were "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."


History of Photography | History, Inventions, Artists, & Events | Britannica. 7 Nov. 2023,

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Achievements and Contributions to the Arts and Sciences | Britannica. Accessed 20 Nov. 2023.

MacGuill, Dan. “Are These Leonardo Da Vinci’s Surprising Last Words?” Snopes, 22 Nov. 2017,

Mona Lisa | Painting, Subject, History, Meaning, & Facts | Britannica. 21 Oct. 2023,

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.