Prado Discovers it Possesses Earliest Copy of Mona Lisa
Tags: Conservation, Leonardo, OMP
After several months of restoration and cleaning on a well-known but undistinguished copy of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Madrid’s Prado Museum has discovered that the painting is much more significant than earlier believed.
Originally thought to be a Flemish copy of the masterpiece because of the erroneous assumption it was painted on oak (a support typical of Northern countries at the time), the realization that the work was actually painted on walnut points to an Italian origin. But the real kicker comes with the removal of a thick black overpaint added in the 18th century: underneath is a landscape so strikingly similar to Leonardo’s version that scholars are certain the piece is not only Italian, but an Italian contemporary– and most likely a pupil of Leonardo.
Bruno Mottin, the head conservator at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, suggests 2 possibilities, both favorites of Leonardo: Andrea Salai, who began working in his studio in 1490; and Francesco Melzi, who began around 1506. If scholars are able to attribute to the work to Melzi, it would challenge the dates given to Leonardo’s version by the Louvre: 1503 – 1506.
Read more about the discovery on Art Newspaper’s exclusive report.
Photo courtesy of Art Newspaper