Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world. But did you know that she has a twin? Covered with multiple layers of dark and cracked varnish she hung abandoned in cavernous museum basements for ages – exactly from 1819 when Prado Museum in Madrid was founded on the base of Spanish royalty’s art collection.
The Museum assumed it was a bad 16th- or 17th-century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s original, which dates back to the early 1500s. Even though the woman from the Prado painting bears an unmistakable resemblance to “La Gioconda,” it appeared in front of a plain black backdrop rather than the colorful Tuscan countryside of the Louvre’s version. And that was a reason why everyone was fooled for so many years.
Everything changed when Prado’s curators decided the painting needed a face lift because it was going on loan to the Louvre. Some X-ray and infrared studies has been executed, and everyone were shocked to find a beautiful landscape hidden beneath the dark paint behind the subject.
Even more shocking is that according to the curators the painting was actually executed by an artist in Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop at the same time as the original. Probably it was created by Francesco Melzi, one of Leonardo’s favourite pupils.
Now the Prado Mona Lisa is on display in Prado Museum. Next time you’re going to be there don’t forget to pay her a visit – probably it will be a more intimate meeting than with La Gioconda in Louvre!