The Mona Lisa’s ‘Sister’: Da Vinci’s Surprise at the Prado

The art circles in Spain are stuck in a state of mixed feelings. On one side, the death of Antoni Tàpies a few days ago brought to an end a living legacy of a great abstract artist. On the other side, the announcement earlier this month of the discovery of an original ‘Mona Lisa’ in the Prado Museum of Madrid is obviously one of the most intriguing such ‘finds’ in the recent history of art!

The Mona Lisa of the Prado was discovered while removing layers of black overpaint during the restoration of a painting that was believed to be a copy of the Mona Lisa done by a Flemish painter. Further restoration revealed the Tuscan landscape at the back and now it has been confirmed that this Mona Lisa was painted at Da Vinci’s studio (possibly by an apprentice or assistant of his) at the same time that the original Mona Lisa was painted.

As The Art Newspaper puts it: “what is most exciting about the Prado replica is what it reveals about Leonardo’s original. In the Madrid copy there are areas that are better preserved than in the Louvre painting. The replica gives us more detail of the spindles of the chair, the frill on the edge of the fabric on Lisa’s chest and the semi-transparent veil around her left shoulder, arm and elbow.”

The Prado Mona Lisa will be on show this month in Madrid, before traveling to Paris to be exhibited alongside the Louvre’s Mona Lisa.

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