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Prado Mona Lisa replica
A detail of the Prado’s Mona Lisa replica


Feb. 2, 2012

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Dozens of expert replicas of the Mona Lisa have survived since the original was painted in the 16th century, but perhaps none as special as the one just discovered by conservators at the Prado in Madrid. This replica was not painted years after Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, as experts once thought. Instead, they now believe that this copy was created by one of his students, working with him in his studio at the same time, the Art Newspaper reports.

The museum paid little attention to the work because the all-black background, believed to be painted years after Leonardo’s death, was not the famously detailed landscape of the Mona Lisa that hangs in the Louvre. Yet when they performed tests on it a couple of years ago, in advance of the exhibition “Leonardo’s Last Masterpiece: The Sainte Anne,” Mar. 29-Jun. 25, 2012, at the Louvre, researchers realized there is something underneath the black paint -- that same Tuscan landscape.

Now, the vibrant picture offers a new perspective on the Mona Lisa. The paint surface on her face is not as cracked and peeling as it is in Leonardo's. And details of her clothes and the background are much more clearly visible. In fact, without that yellow patina, the portrait looks disarmingly contemporary, especially with her thin thread-cut eyebrows and rosy complexion.

The painter of the replica is thought to be either Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi, two of Leonardo’s star students.

The Prado plans to exhibit the painting later this month, after which it travels to the Louvre as planned.

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