A painting in the collection of the Prado in Madrid that was long assumed to be a copy of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa done at a later time was recently cleaned and restored, revealing a previously unseen background where there was once just dark, and on further examination is now thought to be a copy done in Leonardos’ studio by one of his pupils at the same time as the master was working on the original.
If true, the painting gives us not only an insight into the master’s techniques, as it was apparently revised as Leonardo revised the original, but also reveals a clearer picture of what the original, which has not been cleaned for some time, may have looked like when originally painted.
According to The Art Newspaper, which broke the story, the scholarly paper that suggests the new placement of the painting within Leonardo’s studio at the same time as the original was presented in conjunction with the current landmark exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: painter at the Court of Milan that ends soon at the National Gallery, London.
I’ve linked to several articles below, though most source from The Art Newspaper. The LA Times has posted perhaps the best side by side image of the two paintings.
The copy by the as yet unidentified student shows us not only the brighter colors that probably lie under layers of varnish in the original, but a younger looking subject (assumed to be Lisa Gherardini).
It also makes clearer what I have long asserted to be the source of her famously “enigmatic smile” — mouth corners turned up at one end, but straight on the other [see my previous post: La Gioconda (The Mona Lisa), flipped for your viewing pleasure].