I don’t have any personal investment in the Mona Lisa — don’t love it, don’t hate it, it is what it is — but as arguably the most famous painting in the world, I was surprised to see how little buzz there was surrounding the discoveryofitsearliestcopy. Art conservators at the Prado museum in Madrid have identified a copy of the Mona Lisa that they believe was painted simultaneously with the original. Infrared photographs of the layers of paint beneath the Prado replica and the original reveal that both shared similar changes in composition as they were painted. Experts are proposing that the Prado copy was painted at Leonardo’s side by one of his favorite pupils — either Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi.
Even as someone who feels a level of ambivalence toward the Mona Lisa, I think this is an exciting find. With a painting as old and world-famous as the Mona Lisa, I assumed there wasn’t much left to learn — but modern technology has unlocked yet another door for us. The amount of information that could be learned from this discovery makes it nothing short of thrilling for both art and history enthusiasts around the globe. I think it would be fantastic if the copy and the original could be exhibited side-by-side, the way they were created over 500 years ago — a “class reunion” for the ages!