Prado Mona Who You Be?

The Mona Lisa - or at least her "Twin" is making headline news all over the world yet again. This time for a version of her that was supposedly painted alongside Leonardo and not a copy painted later.

There have been countless copies of the Mona Lisa painted over the last 500+ years. What makes this new "discovery" significant is that it was analyzed (X-rayed) and found to have the same "under-drawing" as the original Mona Lisa (which has also been x-rayed.) This would mean that it was being painted at or around the same time. That is what the articles are saying and the assumption being made.

How else could another painting have the same base layer unless it was being painted around the same time that the original's base layer was still visible? Meaning that the other copies of the Mona Lisa show her how she was after the original design (The base) had been changed and painted over. So for the Prado Mona to be a copy of the Mona Lisa's design as she was early on (the base layers that are no longer visible without x-ray) it would have had to be painted early - while the Mona Lisa was also being painted. Right?

The Mona Lisa is built up with 3 other paintings under her top coat and hundreds (if not thousands) of other layers of plaint and glaze. The "base coat" or what would be on the bottom is no longer visible except through x-ray and infra-red scans. That means that for the Prado version to show the design that's on Mona's lower levels (before they were painted over) it would have had to been painted when they were still visible - meaning while Leonardo was still in the early stages and still working on her. -whew!

The reason that this is "news" or a new revelation is due to it only recently being cleaned and analyzed. Before it had a black background... (Why?) If it was because it had darkened with age - then why didn't Prado-Mona's face and body also turn black? So it seems that someone blacked-out the background. (Your guess is as good as mine)

On the left is the "Prado Mona" before the cleaning - on the right is after.

This shows the Mona Lisa and the Prado Lisa on each side and them being superimposed in the middle. You'll notice how incredibly similar they are - not in style but in the edges or outlines. It's so precise it's hard to imagine how this could be done without some kind of tracing or projection. It was definitely intended to be as close to the original design as possible. I think of it like a coloring book - there are the same outlines for everyone to color in - but how they do that is up to them.

If this portrait was of Lisa Gherardini  - (the Prado version) it had to have been based off of the painting "Mona Lisa" and not the actual "Lisa" in person. It means that the Prado was based off the Mona Lisa's (the painting's) design not a real woman's face. This may seem obvious but I'm stating it anyways to help with where i'm going with this post!

This is where things get very interesting. I have to interject (haha) that Leonardo da Vinci was not a great example of:

  • "Ockham's razor, is a principle that generally recommends that, from among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false."

It may be true that usually the simplest explanation is right - but that is not ALWAYS true. There are plenty of things that are very complicated, especially if they are intended to be complicated - such as puzzles or brain teasers. Keep that in mind when considering what's being presented. Leonardo was very complex and was forced to keep this puzzling and masked in mystery. (explained more in book)

So although it's very possible that the Prado painting was painted alongside da Vinci by one of his apprentices - there is another way to explain the similar design bases that would avoid having to fit it into any kind of timeline.

The original plans or sketches were preserved to work from. Almost like a template or a "connect the dots" drawing that Leonardo gave his students/ apprentices to work from. You could think of them like "blue prints" Leonardo and most painters will do conceptual sketches before they start painting to give them a guide and outline for what they want to paint. Like in the coloring book page I posted earlier - you could hand out blank ones to anyone and let them "paint" in the lines. There are examples of this methodical planning in his journals:

One of the preparatory sketches for the Last Supper

When planning for a painting artists will go through what they call today in film "Pre-Production." In this phase the artist tests out different designs and decides which will look best before they start to actually apply the paint. Of course these are only preliminary ideas and usually they will evolve and change as the painting progresses.

So what I'm getting at is that there could have been an original template that the Prado Mona was based on which would explain the base x-rayed starting point.

"Yeah, that's possible but where are those sketches and why would there be when the original Mona Lisa was a portrait of Lisa G?"

Good question! You can't really plan on painting a real life person's portrait down to specific details. You can have an idea about how you would like them to sit, to pose, to smile, etc. You can decide how you would like her to be framed, you could even design a background before she sat down to pose.

As an example try to imagine how difficult it would have been for a painter to paint the Prado Mona based off a real life Lisa G and still have the outlines and such, be exactly the same? To get it so similar that when they are superimposed they are nearly perfect?

Think about it and how it relates to what i'm bloggin' bout! Coincidence or the photographers intention?

  • The artist would have to specifically TRY to do this. Even if the real model tried to sit in the EXACT same position, with the clothing draped in the exact same way, the hands in the exact same position, and the hair in the same place..  The artist would also have to be at the exact same distance and perspective that the original artist was for the paintings to align in the way they do. 

It's not known who actually painted the Prado-Mona, it's assumed it was one of his pupils: Melzi or Salai - or someone else. Salai painting it is very possible, he was Leo's favorite and stayed with him for 25 years. 

This is a portrait of Salai, It was painted between 1495-1500 -definitely before the Mona Lisa. No one knows who painted it either. (I think it's a self portrait by Salai w/ the help from Leo)

SO keeping this in mind I would like you to consider something else - it's what a large part of "Discovering da Vinci's Daughter" is about.

  In my book I compare and contrast the "Portrait of Salai" (Pictured below to the far left) with the Mona Lisa. For the Mona Lisa to align/combine in the way it does it would have had to been based off of or inspired by the portrait of Salai. Not just "inspired" but specifically and intricately designed for the two faces to align. *In the same way that the Prado Mona had to have been designed off of the "Mona Lisa"*

 Even if Leo didn't intend for this to happen (Which I am sure he did) there is absolutely no doubt that these two paintings are related. They are so similar that it would be impossible for them to not be based off either - each other - or another design that they both were built up from. So regardless of the reasons or intentions by whoever painted what - it's obvious that there had to have been some kind of original design that all the rest were based off of. I think, based off of the dates and the apparent age of Salai in the portrait - it came first and the Mona Lisa was based off of his portrait.

"If the thing loved is base, the lover becomes base." - Leonardo da Vinci

So in the same way that the Prado Mona had to have been based off of the "Mona Lisa" the Mona Lisa would have had to been based off of the Portrait of Salai. This puts a lot of skepticism on the traditional identity of the Model. How could Lisa Giacondo's face be almost exactly the same as Salai's? How and why could Leonardo have had her pose in the exact same way as Salai's in his portrait?

Last year "they" (sorry I dont remember the name) found an inscription on an old piece of paper that confirmed that Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" was really Lisa G. If you didn't already know her true identity has always been controversial and borderline -mysterious. In my book I give very strong evidence that it isn't really of Lisa but she was used for her name - not her face. Thats not to say that Leo didn't paint a portrait of her, i'm sure he did and that explains the records of it. BUT that does not mean that the portrait we call "Mona Lisa" today - is her. How could we know what she looked like? Why would a portrait of her align with the face of Salai (a male)? Or even more curiously - why would Leonardo's self portrait also align with her face? Not to mention that Leonardo kept the painting and never gave it to her. Its very likely that he continued to add to the painting for year and years and whoever, or whatever was on the bottom layers would have been covered up.

It's possible that the records, observations, and dates etc. were either about another- different portrait of the real life Lisa Gherardini or that her original portrait was then later covered up by Leonardo and that's what - and who - we see today in the Louvre. The painting is SO complex that it has layers of clear glaze that are thinner than a human hair. There are thousands of these! Why would he work so hard on a portrait of some lady - and then never give it to her?

"Work is never finished - only abandoned." -Leonardo.

 There are a lot of reasons I don't think Lisa Gherardini was the "woman" in the Mona Lisa. The painting has gone through many other names before arriving at "Mona Lisa" which is a shorten form of "Madam Lisa Giaconda" (Or Lisa Gherardini - her husbands last name) The current title was used after Vasari (Leo's first biographer) called it that many years after Leo's death.

  • "A Certain Florentine Lady"
  • "A courtesan in gauze veil"
  • "La Joconde"
  • "La Giaconda"

While I was researching the Prado Mona today I came across another clue that it wasn't of Lisa Gherardini:

“a certain Florentine lady done at the instigation of the late Magnifico Giuliano de’ Medici.”

This is why it was called "A certain Florentine Lady" but why wouldn't it say "Lisa G" and why would Giuliano de' Medici have her painted?

 This gets too complicated to explain but there is more on my site HERE.

I will explain the "Pillar Controversy" and the backgrounds in a future post - this is already way too long!


These are just a few of the articles about the Prado Mona. I gotta finish this book: STAT!

New Mona Lisa Stirs Buzz Over Romantic Triangle: Martin Gayford

Mona Lisa “twin” on display at Spain's Prado

After being hidden for centuries, Mona Lisa's twin has been restored and goes public

Mona Lisa's 'twin' to be displayed
"Painting, to be exhibited at Madrid's Prado, said to have been created at same time as Da Vinci's masterpiece."

Mona Lisa's twin on show in Spain

Madrid's Prado puts Mona Lisa's "twin" on display

Madrid's Prado puts Mona Lisa's 'twin' on display

Mona Lisa Prado museum version on display
"A contemporary copy of the Mona Lisa has been put up on display by Madrid's Prado, just weeks after rocking the art world with revelations about its provenance."

Other copies/ versions of the Mona Lisa
I wonder what would be found if these were x-rayed as well?

Vernon Collection - USA

National Gallery in Oslo, by Bernardino Luini MDXXV or Philippe de Champaigne

Chamber of Deputies - Rome, Bernardino Luini?

Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

More Information at 
"If liberty is dear to you, may you never discover that my face is love's prison" - Leonardo da Vinci

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