February 2, 2012

What idiot painted over Mona Lisa?

According to The Art Newspaper, a copy of the Mona Lisa has been uncovered at the Prado in Madrid. The Prado curators had always assumed their Mona Lisa was made after Leonardo’s death, but now it  appears as though was actually painted by one of his assistants at the same time as the original. Later,  inexplicably, probably in the mid-18th century, the landscape in the background was covered with a deep coat of black paint. When conservators began removing the paint, they realized how similar the image was to the Louvre's Mona Lisa, and infrared reflectography images revealed similar underdrawings.

Since the background landscape remained in good condition and Leonardo’s original painting was already well regarded, no one knows why the painting was altered, but they suspect the owner (or perhaps an aggressive interior designer?) wanted to integrate the copy into an interior with other portraits set against dark backgrounds.

Let's hope this discovery is a lesson to everyone that paintings should never be altered to suit the  décor.


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