Prado Mona Lisa

ArtistWorkshop of Leonardo da Vinci
Yearc. 1503–1516
MediumOil on walnut panel
SubjectLisa Gherardini
Dimensions76.3 cm × 57 cm (30.0 in × 22 in)
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid

The Prado Mona Lisa is a painting by the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, depicting the same subject and composition as Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa in the Louvre, Paris. The Prado Mona Lisa has been in the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1819 but was long considered an unimportant copy. However, following its restoration in 2012, it has been recognized as the earliest known studio copy of Leonardo’s masterpiec

Background

The origins of the Prado’s Mona Lisa are linked to Leonardo’s original, as both paintings were likely created simultaneously in the same studio. The first documentary reference to the Prado Mona Lisa was made in the 1666 inventory of the Galleria del Mediodia of the Alcazar in Madrid as “Mujer de mano de Leonardo Abince” (Woman by Leonardo da Vinci’s hand). It is unknown when the portrait entered the Spanish Royal Collection, though it may have been in Spain by the early 17th century. Since the Prado’s founding in 1819, the copy has been part of its permanent collection.

Restoration

The Prado’s Mona Lisa before its restoration

Before its restoration, the painting was catalogued as an anonymous copy from the first quarter of the 16th century and usually hung alongside masterpieces by Italian artists like Raphael and Andrea del Sarto. A lithograph of the painting exists, which is unusual for an anonymous copy.

The most striking difference between the Prado’s version and the Louvre’s version was the lack of a visible landscape background in the Prado’s copy, which was recovered during the restoration by the Prado between 2011 and 2012. The restoration revealed that the black repaint covering the landscape was applied around 1750. Infrared reflectography and radiography studies during the restoration indicated that the Prado Mona Lisa was painted in Leonardo’s workshop at the same time as the original Mona Lisa. The underlying drawing, although different in style, matched the original, supporting this conclusion.

Attribution

Before the restoration, the Prado’s copy was sometimes attributed to a Flemish school painter due to its repainting and the belief that its frame was oak. The restoration revealed the frame was walnut, a wood commonly used in Leonardo’s works.

Post-restoration, it was suggested that Leonardo’s pupils, Francesco Melzi or Salaì, were the probable painters, though some experts believe the artist could have been a Spanish student of Leonardo, such as Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina or Hernando de los Llanos. The painting’s careful execution and use of materials such as lapis lazuli and red lacquer suggest it is not a typical workshop copy.

Ana Gonzáles Mozo, curator at the Prado Museum, noted in the exhibition catalog “Leonardo and the Copy of the Mona Lisa” that the so-called Ganay copy of the Salvador Mundi was likely done by the same artist who painted the Prado Mona Lisa.

Interesting Discoveries

The suggestion that the Prado version was painted in Leonardo’s workshop at the same time as the Louvre version, possibly by an apprentice, is supported by its slightly different perspective from the original. This has led to speculation that the two paintings might create a stereoscopic image, offering a 3D appearance when viewed dichoptically. However, more recent reports indicate that this pair does not reliably provide stereoscopic depth.

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