Friday, 3 February 2012

Mona Lisa’s Long-Lost Sibling

It seems Leonardo da Vinci is never out of the news these days. Whether it’s the much-acclaimed blockbuster exhibition currently running in London’s National Gallery, or the recent row over the Louvre’s alleged over-cleaning of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, da Vinci and his work continue to inspire debate and controversy almost 500 years after his death.

The latest attention-grabbing headlines revolve around the ‘recent’ discovery, by Spain’s Prado Museum, of a copy of da Vinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.

But hundreds of copies of the world’s most recognised artwork have appeared over the years – what makes this one so newsworthy? After all, this particular painting has been part of the Prado’s collection for nearly two hundred years and has, up to now, been widely considered as nothing more than an inferior reproduction.

Well, thanks to the very latest advancements in infrared technology, a recent analysis has proved that this version was actually painted at same time as the original – that is, one of Leonardo’s apprentices worked alongside the Grand Master copying his work, stroke for stroke - which makes this painting Mona Lisa’s exact contemporary.

Leonardo by Giorgio Vasari
This discovery is a significant one for the art world, not least because it finally confirms the long-held belief that da Vinci did not work alone, but in close collaboration with the students in his studio. And it also proves that Grand Master was not averse to selling inferior copies of his work should the need arise.

In the case of Mona Lisa - often said to be the artist’s favourite painting – it is now thought Leonardo was so attached to his creation that he refused to be parted with it, and instead delivered his apprentice’s copy to Francesco del Giocondo, the man who had originally commissioned the portrait.

If this is so, Signor del Giocondo got a raw deal, because although a highly competent painting in its own right, the copy lacks the hauntingly eerie, almost other-worldly presence that has ensured the original Mona Lisa remains, after 500 years, the world’s most talked-about work of art.

But don't take my word for it - judge for yourself ...

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