In December 1962, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa set sail from Paris to New York for what was arguably the riskiest art exhibition ever mounted. The fragile icon traveled like a head of state, with armed guards and military surveillance, in a temperature-controlled vault. Masterminding the entire show was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who tirelessly campaigned to persuade National Gallery Director John Walker, French President Charles de Gaulle, and her own husband to debut the legendary smile here. For 88 charmed days, “Lisa Fever” swept the nation as nearly two million Americans attended exhibits in Washington, D.C. and New York. It was the greatest outpouring of appreciation for a single work of art in American history. And as only Jacqueline Kennedy could do, she infused America’s first museum blockbuster show with a unique sense of pageantry, igniting a national love affair with the arts.
Gathering rare archival documents and interviews, acclaimed biographer Margaret Leslie Davis has woven a tantalizing saga, filled with international intrigue and the irresistible charm of Camelot and its queen.