The Prado Museum Unveils a copy of the Mona Lisa

Spain Unveils ‘Mona Lisa’ Copy Done  by da Vinci Apprentice

Published February 02, 2012Spain Mona Lisa.jpg

  • A copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that was painted at the same time as  the original in the same studio is displayed at the Prado Museum in Madrid  Wednesday Feb. 1, 2012. Spain’s Prado Museum says the copy it has of Leonardo da  Vinci’s Mona Lisa was painted at the same time as the original perhaps making it  the earliest replica of the masterpiece. A museum spokeswoman said the work was  painted side by side with the 16th century original that hangs in the Louvre in  Paris and was done by one of Leonard’s key students. (AP Photo/Paul White) (AP2012)

  • Officials at Spain’s Prado Museum unveiled a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s  famed “Mona Lisa” painting that was almost certainly painted hand-in-hand with  the Italian polymath by one of his apprentices.

The stunning find of what the Prado now says is probably the earliest known  copy of La Gioconda will give art lovers and experts an idea of what the Mona  Lisa looked like back in the 16th century, said Gabriele Finaldi, the museum’s  deputy director collections.

“It is as if we were in the same studio, standing at the next easel,” he told  reporters.

The copy has been part of the Prado collection for years and displayed  occasionally but no one paid much attention to it because around the woman in  the Mona Lisa was a stark black background, not the pretty landscape seen in the  original.

Two years ago, to get the copy ready for a da Vinci exhibit later this year  in Paris, where the original hangs in the Louvre, tests were done and this gave  restorers a hint that something lie under the black coat, which was added in the  18th century for reasons not fully understood.

When the black covering was removed, a Tuscan landscape very similar to the  one in the original emerged.

And X-ray tests which allow experts to peek under a painting’s surface to see  how it developed as it was composed showed that changes made in the copy were  similar to changes made to the original as it evolved.

Varnish has also been removed from the Mona Lisa’s face, making it look  brighter and younger than the face coated with cracked, darkish varnish at the  Paris museum.

“You can imagine that this is what the Mona Lisa looked like back in the 16th  century,” Finaldi said.

Miguel Falomir, the Prado’s director for Italian painting, said the copy  gives art lovers and experts a chance “to admire the Mona Lisa with totally  different eyes.”

He and Finaldi said the museum’s best guess is that the copy was done by a da  Vinci apprentice named Francesco Melzi, because of the style observed in it.

Besides the black background, one other difference from the original is the  woman in the copy has eyebrows and the Mona Lisa in the real masterpiece does  not.

There are dozens of the surviving replicas of the masterpiece from the 16th  and 17th centuries.

The Louvre supports the Prado’s new evaluation of the painting, Finaldi  said.

The Prado plans to put it on display later this month before it travels to France for the da  Vinci show.

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