An online petition is demanding that Jeff Bezos, billionaire and founder of Amazon, buys and eats the Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa.
The petition, posted on Change.org, bluntly states: “Nobody has eaten the mona lisa and we feel jeff bezos needs to take a stand and make this happen.” Clearly, this message has resonated with the masses. Although it was launched a year ago with little fanfare, the petition has seen a sudden uptick of attention in recent days and has since racked up over 12,200 signatures, as of Tuesday, June 22.
Arguably one of the world’s most famous paintings, putting a price tag on the 16th-century masterpiece is tough, even before we navigate the ethical and legal minefield of ingesting a "priceless" artwork. However, financially speaking, the act of buying the Mona Lisa would not be too much of a strain on the Bezos bank account.
When the painting was assessed in 1962, evaluators estimated it was worth $100 million. After accounting for inflation and the insane world of the fine art market, the painting is now set to be worth a lot more. For a little bit more context, da Vinci’s portrait of Christ, Salvator Mundi, was sold for $450.3 million to Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud in 2017, breaking the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold.
Stéphane Distinguin, a French entrepreneur, suggested the Mona Lisa would sell for “no less than 50 billion euros” (around $59 billion) last year. Even if we take this lofty estimation, which other experts believe is wildly overzealous, it still wouldn’t be a problem for Bezos' wallet.
As per Forbes, Jeffrey Preston Bezos is worth around $200 billion. Theoretically, if he was able to instantly get his hands on this money, he’d easily be able to afford the Mona Lisa (while he's at it, he’d also be able to buy Salvator Mundi to use as a dinner table, wipe his mouth with a Jackson Pollock, and use Damien Hirst's diamond bedazzled human skull as a footrest. He could then get a ride home from the meal in his own James Webb Space Telescope while listening to Martin Shrekli's infamous one-a-of-kind Wu-Tang Clan album).
However, bank balances aside, there’s a good reason why Bezos should think twice about eating the artwork. Renaissance-era paint makers were not so hot on health and safety, and it’s highly likely even an aperitif-sized bite of their product would result in a case of chemical poisoning. According to a detailed post by someone who claims to work in poison control on Reddit’s r/TheyDidTheMath, the white paint used in the Mona Lisa contains approximately 87 grams of lead carbonate in total, which is around 3 to 4 fatal doses. This is before you even consider the rest of the potentially dubious chemicals found on a 16th-century paint palette.
Of course, all of this really depends on whether the Louvre – the Paris museum where the Mona Lisa is on permanent display – would sell the painting to a hungry tech mogul. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look promising.
“We have seen the petition but the Musée du Louvre will not comment,” Sophie Grange, the deputy director of communication at the Louvre, told the New York Times.