Mona Lisa Age Twelve
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Colombian artist Fernando Botero shows us what Mona Lisa would have looked like as a preteen.

Full warning though: the answer might not be quite what you were expecting as she has an enormous green head and looks slightly deranged. But we have the painting to thank for launching Botero’s career and bringing the world his wonderfully rotund figures and their exaggerated proportions.

At first, Botero wasn’t even trying to paint the Mona Lisa, but rather a portrait of a Colombian girl. One day, a cleaning lady saw the painting and commented that it looked like the Mona Lisa. So, Botero redid the smile and named the piece Mona Lisa, Age Twelve. This was back in 1959.

Flash forward two years, and legendary MoMA curator Dorothy Miller was visiting someone who lived in Botero’s apartment building. The person casually mentioned she should take a peek at the work of a Colombian artist living in the building. When she stopped by, it just so happened that Botero had Mona Lisa, Age Twelve resting on the floor. The next day, MoMA sent someone to pick up the painting and display it at the museum alongside a few comments by Botero.

To recap, 3 fortuitous events lined up to bring Botero’s work into the spotlight:

  1. A cleaning lady pointed out the portrait looked like the Mona Lisa.

  2. Botero was at home when a MoMA curator decided to “drop by” his apartment.

  3. Mona Lisa, Age Twelve was sitting in the entryway when said curator stopped by.

Though Mona Lisa, Age Twelve was by some measures Botero’s career-launching painting, it should be noted that he also painted several other renditions of the Mona Lisa, including Mona Lisa, Age 13 (this is not a joke). Though it doesn’t appear to have been the most transformative year of Mona Lisa’s youth as she looks quite similar to her 12-year-old self. Decades later in 1978, Botero also painted a version of the Mona Lisa (age whatever-age-she-is-in-Leonardo’s original) in his signature rotund/fat/inflated/volumetric style.

In fact, Botero has a penchant for painting replicas of famous works of art in his Boterismo style. He has also done renditions of Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, and Piero della Francesca’s Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. I mean who doesn’t love seeing classic paintings re-done the Botero way?




  1. Bowden, Charles, “Extraordinary Renditions, GQ, September 10, 2014,
  2. “Fernando Botero - Mona Lisa A Los Trece Años,” Sotheby’s, accessed September 19, 2018.
  3. “The Baroque World of Fernando Botero,” Oklahoma City Museum of Art, accessed September 21, 2018
  4. Stanska, Zuzanna, “Fernando Botero and His Remakes of Classic Masterpieces,” Daily Art Magazine, January 15, 2018,

Comments (2)


he was so funny but why only fat people stop assuming peoples gender lol


What a great story. It's a biopic waiting to happen