Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Mona Lisa Discovered

Detail of the newly discovered and restored copy of the Mona Lisa

A new twist to the never-ending saga of the Mona Lisa occurred earlier today when The Art Newspaper leaked that the Prado has discovered a copy of the Mona Lisa believed to have been painted alongside Leonardo himself. But who painted it?

"The Prado now believes its copy may be the work of one of Leonardo's two favorite pupils, either Giacomo Salai or Francesco Melzi", says the Guardian's Jonathan Jones.

The copy is revealing for reasons other than it's inherent artistic qualities. According to The Guardian, Leonardo "picked his pupils for their looks, not their talent. He delighted in Salai's curly locks, says Vasari, who also attests to the beauty of Melzi, even in old age. They were not gifted artists."

The copy does give us an insight into the Master's studio process as well as perhaps revealing what Lisa Del Giacondo actually looked like at the time Leonardo painted his portrait. Leonardo spent a few years tweaking and fiddling with his painting (which may allow for the confused reading of his intent), rendering it a little less than a faithful representation of his model. Leonardo's endless tinkering added about 20 years to the face of what would have been a young woman in her 20s.

There are numerous copies of the Mona Lisa painted after Leonardo's death (and many variations inspired by his masterpiece), but the shocking news that this copy is believed to have been made in the same room as Leonardo, even as Lisa Del Giacondo was posing for the Master, has astonished the art world. The Prado's experts made their verdict upon removal of the black paint that obscured a Tuscan landscape.

The copy is undergoing a final clean before the Prado plans to send it on tour, beginning with the Louvre in March.

Spot The Differences: The real Mona Lisa (left) next to the newly discovered copy (right)

Restorers worked hard to remove a thick black paint from the background of the copy

Prado employees next to the restored copy of Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci
Maddalena Doni, by Raphael
Étude de mains, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


  1. I had no idea! This is really a big find. I love comparing them side by side.

  2. I absolutely love the new copy - it's so beautiful. Thank you for this post, Alan!

  3. Very interesting, however, unlike Regina I was thinking: atrocious.

    1. Goodday Scott Waterman,
      Thats quiet a statement, "atrocious",
      (shockingly bad or tasteless; dreadful; abominable: an atrocious painting; atrocious manners. A dictionary lets me know).
      To have reached such an condemning conclusion, you must have very valid arguments, could you tell me those?
      Philip Sajet ""

    2. as i thought you have no idea what you talk about

    3. I agree with Wateramn. The eyes look like plastic, the nose slightly too long to be a real person. Nobody has eyes like that. Brows have too much of a corner or edge - this is a girl, not a sportscar. Careful copy of the hands. Like the color of the shirt. I wonder if they replaced george washington with mona lisa on the dollar bill how many people would notice?

  4. I am immediately drawn to the hands in both paintings. I have a sense that if a student did indeed work beside Leonardo, then Leonardo focused more on the hands than the face, at least in his critique of the student's work.

  5. Atrocious. Really? I don't see that -- but then again, I use that kind of description for those who use body fluids in their artworks. I still love both -- one for its incredible artistry and one for being a bit more kind and faithful to the subject. I wonder if the upcoming tour includes the Louvre?

  6. First stop on the tour is the Louvre, Regina. Apparently they'll be showing this one right alongside Leonardo's.

  7. I'm not sure it's possible to call it atrocious, either. I mean, we are so very familiar with the original that *any* other version appears wrong somehow, regardless of how it's painted. Raphael was a far better painter than either of Leonardo's assistants, and still I feel that even his variation is kind of off. Mona Lisa was the very first painting I tried to copy when I was about 6 years old. It was in this art class run by a woman up the street in Dublin. We always thought she was a witch because she didn't mow her grass! Turns out she was just an artist. Anyway, my point is that the original is so much a part of all of us I feel it's difficult to be objective about it.

  8. This painting is very important. Here we see her wearing the color of the Sforza-Visconti dynasty, giving us clues by telling us her status in life.

    Are the art historians only blindly continuing the myth of the silk merchant's wife, started 500 ago?

    Is the Louvre painting the original or was it Leonardo's own personal meticulously and elegantly done copy?

    for those who are getting weary of this seemingly never ending mystery that appears will never get solved and want hardcore historical and scientific proofs, see kleio dot org.

    She was a real person and her identity was concealed in history for a reason. ....and not a spooky hoaxy kind either. One that makes complete common sense. Judge for yourself.

  9. Quite honestly, the newly discovered work looks to be a truer representation of a young Italian woman. I like it more actually...