Art History History

Mona Lisa’s long lost twin, found !

February was all about the Mona Lisa, did you know? Amazing, a painting that was done 500 years ago is still the light of our eyes. Today our first lady has become frontline news once again. Recently, a copy of the Mona Lisa owned by the Prado Museum of Madrid was discovered. Louvre and Prado authorities believe it was painted side by side to the original Gioconda by one of Leonardo’s assistants and possibly his lover, Salai. Note: I love how these incredible finds in the art world have to be related to some sex/love related affair; gives it a little spice, don’t you think? Look at Picasso for example, some of his best work was created around his dramatic relationships with his muses, or the theory that Bacon’s work revolved in part around his open yet suppressed homosexuality.

mona-lisa-copyAlthough the painting has been at museum curators’ fingertips for many years, several key aspects of it blinded them from the truth. First of all, there are dozens of surviving replicas of the Mona Lisa from the 16th and 17th century and although this one is believed to have been painted fairly early, several silly –yes, very very silly – assumptions were made by the Prado’s people that automatically ruled out any possibility of this copy belonging to Da Vinci’s studio. Some of theses assumptions were that this copy was painted on oak panel and therefore it was attributed to a northern European painter. However, a few days ago it was discovered that the copy was in fact made on walnut panel just like the Mona Lisa. And just like the Mona Lisa, it has the same fantastical background which was recently unveiled since it had been covered by black over-paint some time in the 18th century. The restorers never figured to check this minor detail until last summer.

This is where our very intelligent museum curators lifted an eyebrow and began connecting the dots.  The Gioconda’s look-alike has the same measurements as her; moreover, the discovery of the year: infrared scans of the underlying drawing were compared to those done on the Louvre’s Mona Lisa in 2004 and they are very similar which suggests that both of the paintings were done literally next to one another. Additionally, this copy was made with expensive materials of the time such as lapis lazuli that can only mean that the work was probably commissioned. Victory!

The first question raised was, how did the Prado manage to come across that painting in the first place. The only answer stumbled upon is that the museum’s curator, Miguel Falomir suspects that this is the unknown painting listed in the 1666 inventory of Madrid’s Alcazar Palace collection as ‘portrait’. However, everyone is unclear as to when or how it reached the Spanish royal collection in the first place.

This copy has given the world a chance to learn more about our enigmatic first lady since it’s in better condition. It has also made the art history world reconsider certain theories about the Mona Lisa that were dismissed because details of the entries didn’t match. The genius I’m referring to is 16th century art historian, Giorgio Vasari who in his specific description of Mona Lisa places special emphasis on her eye brows stating that they “could not be more natural: the hair grows thickly in one place and lightly in a another following the pores of the skin”. Since the Louvre’s Mona Lisa doesn’t have any eyebrows – a fashionable style of the time – Vasari’s account was always dismissed.

As stated above, February was all about the Mona Lisa. Why? Because there is no more speculation, everything is a fact now that she has been publicly acknowledged by both the Louvre and Prado museums. In two weeks the Gioconda’s copy will travel to Paris to reunite with her long lost sister for an exhibition entitled “Leonardo’s Last Masterpiece: The Saint Anne”. Won’t that be a sight for sore eyes.

1 comment on “Mona Lisa’s long lost twin, found !

  1. Gloria Zea

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