Earliest Mona Lisa Copy Put on Display at Madrid’s Prado Museum [Video]

A copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – painted at the same time as the original picture by one of the Da Vinci’s assistants – has been put on display today at Madrid’s Prado Museum.

Experts say the Prado Mona Lisa copy, previously thought to have been “just another replica” until a few short weeks ago, reveals much about one of the world’s most famous painting.

“I think what’s important is it enables us to understand how Leonardo worked in his studio,” said deputy director of conservation, Gabriele Finaldi.

According to Reuters, the Mona Lisa copy has belonged to the Prado ever since the museum was founded in 1819.

Experts began a technical study of the copy when the Louvre requested it two years ago for an exhibition opening next month. They found it had been painted on walnut, just like the Mona Lisa, and infrared images showed traces of background mountains just like in the original painting.

When conservators proceeded to remove a coat of varnish from the figure in the painting — who is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florentine merchant Francesco Del Giocondo — they uncovered additional important nuances of her 16th century dress and appearance.

“We know that from the underdrawing that the changes which appear on our picture also appear in the Louvre’s picture, that makes us pretty confident this was, as I say, being produced at the same time as the original. So it really introduces us to Leonardo’s working methods apart from being a a rather beautiful picture in itself,” Finaldi said.

The beauty of the Prado’s version however is unlikely to threaten the popularity of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the reason is simple: the Louvre’s Mona Lisa was painted by the master himself, the Prado’s by an assistant.

“I don’t think there is a competition, I think it’s perfectly clear the Louvre’s picture is Leonardo’s original, this is a copy produced by an assistant, there are some differences which reveal, as I say, what are possibly earlier stages in the execution of the painting that is now in Paris,” Finaldi said. “I think this is a picture which complements our knowledge of the Leonardo in the Louvre,” he added.

The Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa painting will be on display at the museum until 13 March. From there, it will travel to the Louvre in Paris to sit next to the original for a temporary exhibition.

For more on Prado’s Mona Lisa copy, check out the following video clip below:

via BBC News

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