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Friday, March 2, 2012

PRADO’S COPY OF THE MONA LISA GIVES UP MORE OF HER SECRETS


Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa gives up more of her secrets
The work is now fully restored and on view in Spain, and gives fresh insight into the most famous painting in the world

By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 23 February 2012

The Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa, unveiled in Madrid on 21 February, has produced a series of surprises. Painted in Leonardo’s studio, it was made with high quality materials, suggesting it was an important work, probably a commission. When the copy was begun, the outline of Leonardo’s original composition was traced directly onto the assistant’s panel. The two works were then developed side by side, with the copyist following the master as he worked for years to complete the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. Although remarkably similar, there are also fascinating differences between Leonardo’s original in the Louvre and the copy in the Prado.

The Art Newspaper revealed in its February issue that the Prado’s version of the Mona Lisa was not, as had been assumed, a later copy by a northern European artist. The dramatic discovery was that the copy had been done in Leonardo’s studio and painted alongside the original (see related story).

Black overpaint added in the late 18th century had obscured the landscape background, and until recently, no one had any idea of what lay hidden beneath. This was revealed by infra-red reflectography, done last summer by the Prado’s technical specialist Ana González Mozo. After further investigations, a full restoration was begun.

The first stage was to remove the old, yellowed varnish from the portrait area, restoring the original tones of the flesh. The next step was to deal with the black overpaint which obscured the landscape. Originally, it had been feared that that black had been applied to disguise damage to the landscape, but fortunately this was not the case. Earlier this year, the overpaint was painstakingly removed with solvents, revealing the Tuscan landscape beneath.

The final work, completed in the past few weeks, was retouching to fill in small paint losses and blend in the colours. The resulting restoration, by Almudena Sánchez, means the portrait now looks much closer to how it left Leonardo’s studio over 500 years ago. It also gives us a much better impression of the early appearance of the Louvre’s version, which is covered in layers of darkened varnish. Because of its importance, the original will not be cleaned by the Louvre in the foreseeable future.


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