Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Prado Mona Lisa

The amount of press attention given to the copy of the Mona Lisa in the Prado is astonishing.
etc. etc.
Would the story have even have made the papers if it had been about Raphael? The idea that a copy should be produced in workshop is hardly a surprise. In our book on the Madonna and the Yarnwinder,  Thereza Wells and I showed that the two prime versions developed alongside each other, in this instance with Leonardo's participation in both. The only surprise is that a copy should be made of an intimate, domestic portrait of a bourgeois sitter. Perhaps Francesco del Giocondo wanted two versions. But it is odd. The implications of the landscape for the dating of the Mona Lisa - the background in the copy is aligned with drawings dateable to after 1510 - provides useful confirmation that the painting took a long time, but is not surprising. Was it ever completely finished? Were any of his paintings completely finished? The London Virgin of the Rocks, which was supplied for the frame in S. Francesco in Milan, is not finished. Only the Louvre seemed to think that the ML was completed before Leonardo left Florence in 1507.
Perhaps I shouldn't complain. It all helps sustain interest and helps sell (my) books.
By the way, we have absolutely no reliable evidence about what Salai looked like - and almost no firm evidence of how he painted. The pretty boy with ringlets, often identified as Salai, was a favourite facial type for Leonardo well before Salai came on to the scene.


  1. It should not be astounding that news about Leonardo or the Mona Lisa has reverberated to such an extent; the topic resonates at the level of a collective obsession. I will admit to following this story at a near obsessive level, which puts me in the crowd who helps sell (your) books. You are not surprised that the evidence supports the idea that a copy was painted by a student alongside a master, but the imagination of the general public is captivated by the notion that this particular painting was done by a student in tandem with the master, Leonardo. To people who would not have otherwise thought about it, it provides compelling imagery of the steps Leonardo took while initiating this work.
    You raise the question of a purported link between the rocky outcrop drawings and a feature if the background. Not as much is available about this aspect but the conclusion seems to be that the feature and perhaps much of the landscape was added much later. The Prado evidence is strong in support of the idea that both copy and original were likely started simultaneously, with compositional adjustments made early on. But surely it would be highly improbable that compositional changes were made in both the original and copy for 16 years. It would seem logical that the landscape was largely established, before the subject. The evidence, as reported by Mohen, Menu and Mottin, supports this. Do you not think that the landscape sketches of 1510 align better, compositionally and temporally, with the Virgin and Child with St Anne and Lamb?
    Sincerely Donato Pezzutto.

  2. Dear Professor Kemp. Many thanks for providing this update.

    The Louvre seems to have slightly changed their stance on the dating of the Mona Lisa, making some room for the later alterations after considering the Prado variant. source

    I am all in favour of the Prado's use of this example to openly share technical findings in publicly accessible formats, as well as promote discussion online.

    As for Raphael, it did not make as large an impact (though still reported globally) when late last year the discovery of a stated "workshop" copy of Julius II was revealed by the Stadel Frankfurt. Particularly curious was the reported position of a raised arm seen on IR, not present in the London panel - which presently is seen as the autograph version (for want of a better description).

    For your readers that may be interested - a detailed summary can be seen here : link

    Many Kind Regards
    Hasan Niyazi

  3. La batalla de Anghiari (en italiano, La battaglia di Anghiari) es una pintura al fresco de Leonardo da Vinci, actualmente perdida, pintada en un muro del Salón de los Quinientos del Palazzo Vecchio de Florencia entre 1503 y 1506. Consta que en su ejecución Leonardo contó con la ayuda de un pintor al que los documentos llaman «Ferrando Spagnuolo, dipintore», que pudiera ser Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina o quizá Fernando Llanos.
    "A Ferrando Spagnolo, dipintore, per dipinguere con Lionardo da Vinci nella sala del consiglio florine 5 larghi e a Thomaso di Giovane Merini, su garzone per macinare e colori, florini 1 in oro."
    el paisaje del fondo parece estar inspirado en uno de los 21 dibujos de Leonardo que posee la Reina de Inglaterra
    El conservador de la Colección Windsor, Martin Clayton, dató ese boceto entre 1510 y 1515 basándose en impresiones de estilo, lo que indicaría que el perfeccionista toscano trabajó en el fondo de la Gioconda hasta mucho más tarde de lo que se pensaba.
    Si esto es cierto, y el tal "Ferrando Spagnuolo", ayudó a Leonardo hasta el año 1506 en la "Batalla de Anghiari", ¿ cómo pudo agregar el dibujo del fondo, si está datado entre 1510 y 1515?

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