Mona Lisa as she was meant to be seen?

Unlike more recent geniuses, the old masters of painting did not work alone. They had plenty of staff working in their studios to help prepare paints and do menial tasks and learn while watching. Leonardo da Vinci's studio was set up this way.

The Prado Museum in Madrid has rediscovered what it believes to be a copy of Leonardo's Mona Lisa painted at roughly the same time as Leonardo was creating his iconic masterpiece.

The painting was unveiled yesterday. It is not clear who painted it possibly Andreas Salai (one of Leonardo's lovers) or Francesco Melzi

Whoever did the work it shows Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, as more human. Leonardo's painting, which is on display at the Louvre in Paris, is hidden under six centuries of dirt and varnish. It's faded colors add considerably to the mystery that radiates from her ambivalent smile and the preternatural calm exuded in her pose. What the original looked like – and what Leonardo's intentions were – will never be known because the Mona Lisa is unlikely to ever be cleaned.

The copy, fresh from a lengthy restoration, pictures a very youthful woman. The high color of her complexion brings her down to earth. She also has eyebrows – which makes her less distinctive. But as you can see in a side by side comparison in El Pais, she is close enough to Leonardo's original to make you think this is what Mona Lisa really looked like.

Full news report is here. A very interesting bit of commentary by art critic Jonathan Jones is here.

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