(Prado's copy on the left; original "La Gioconda" on the right)
La Gioconda is definitely one of the most popular paintings worldwide and one of the works of art that has inspired the greatest number of artists over the centuries, from those who tried to copy its enigmatic smile to classic pop-art versions, to famous Salvador Dali's Self Portrait as the Mona Lisa.
Recently, Spain’s Museo del Prado has discovered an unusual copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda” hidden beneath black overpaint. The recent removal of the overpaint by Prado conservators shows that the painting that was assumed to be a replica made after Leonardo’s death, was actually painted by one of his key pupils, working alongside the master.
While in the Louvre’s original, Mona Lisa’s face is obscured by old, cracked varnish, making her appear almost middle aged, in the recently restored Prado's copy we see her as she would have looked at the time, as a ravishing young woman in her early 20s.
Mona Lisa's earliest copy will be lent to the Louvre at the end of March as an addition to the exhibition Leonardo’s Last Masterpiece: The Sainte Anne (29 March-25 June).
Is this painting ever going to stop surprising us?