Mona Lisa in Camelot
Mona Lisa in Camelot The Fascinating True Story of a Legend’s Celebrated Visit and the Cultural Ambassador Who Helped Bring Her to America


In December 1962, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa set sail from Paris to New York for what many knew would be the riskiest art exhibition ever mounted. The fragile painting, sealed in a temperature-controlled, bulletproof box, traveled like a head of state accompanied by armed guards and constant surveillance.

The driving force behind the famous painting’s high profile visit was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who convinced French Cultural Minister André Malraux and National Gallery Director John Walker to share the masterpiece with the American people. She overcame the fierce objections of art officials who feared the journey would ruin the world’s most celebrated smile, and "Lisa Fever" soon swept the nation as nearly two million Americans attended exhibits in Washington, D.C. and New York City. 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 that ignited a national love affair with the arts.

Gathering rare archival documents acclaimed biographer Margaret Leslie Davis has woven a tantalizing saga filled with international intrigue and the irresistible charm of Camelot and its queen.


Featured on ABC's Good Morning America

Excerpted in Vanity Fair Magazine

Featured in The London Sunday Times Magazine


"Instant Classic."

          — More Magazine


"An engaging and dynamite story."

          — Liz Smith


"Meticulously researched... a delightful story."

          — Boston Globe


"[Davis] offers an intriguing sketch of Jackie – a woman as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa herself."

          — Newsday


"Davis tells the tale in charming fashion."

          — USA Today


"Margaret Leslie Davis' Mona Lisa in Camelot... brings back all the glamour and high hopes of the Kennedy White House with the story of Jacqueline's successful campaign to import Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa to the United States... Davis' description of the glittering White House dinner the Kennedys arranged in order to woo Malraux makes you dizzy with nostalgia for a first lady with a sophisticated appreciation and respect for the arts...  I would call Mona Lisa in Camelot escapist nonfiction-except that it's firmly grounded in historical fact, and its triumphant heroine, though she's the stuff of fantasy, is as real as you and me."

          — Adam Begley, New York Observer


"No detail goes unexamined, no gesture unexplored in Margaret Leslie Davis's impassioned account of Mona Lisa's historic journey from France to America. Much more than a story about the travels of a world-famous painting, this is a tale of inernational diplomacy, personal relationships, cultural symbolism and – most of all – the power of two great ladies."

          — Suzanne Muchnic, Los Angeles Times art writer


"The non-fiction book reads like a daring art story that somebody had to make up with two beautiful ‘women’ heading the cast (the Mona Lisa and Jackie K). The incredible story of how Jackie Bouvier brought “culture” to a White house that hadn’t had any since Thomas Jefferson left it. Margaret Leslie Davis is known for her fascinating histories and this is a recent one with a gloss, chock-full of glamour, big rich names, super philanthropy, a dedicated woman who was willing to trade her charm for a few Cézannes in the White House and the most famous painting in the world for the National Gallery...
An engaging and dynamite story...This is a really important little addition to American museum and art history."

          — Liz Smith, New York Post


"This distinguished historian has written a charming and painstakingly researched account of Jacqueline Kennedy’s pivotal role in bringing the Mona Lisa to Washington, an achievement that signaled an American cultural awakening."

          — Lou Cannon, author of President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime


"Mona Lisa in Camelot is well written, extensively researched and meticulously rendered — a masterpiece in its own right."

          — BookPage


"Jackie lovers will be thrilled."

          — Kirkus


Mona Lisa in Camelot

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