Experts say that a copy of the Louvre’s “Mona Lisa,” belonging to the Prado, is by Da Vinci, too.
So they say. But a question - unasked, unanswered – lingers in the mind. (More on this in a moment).
Last year this column noted how experts deemed the Prado Mona a copy; although “copy” never seemed the right words since the Prado portrait isn’t an exact copy. The eyebrows are more pronounced, and unlike the smile in the Louvre Mona that never reaches the eyes, they seem to get the message in the Prado Mona. The gown is also redder and the background is all black instead of the Tuscan landscape that Leonardo liked to paint. And despite infrared technology that reveals the landscape under the black paint, experts attributed the Prado Mona to Andrea Salai - one of Leonardo’s favorite apprentices for more than two decades.
Now we’re supposed to forget all that and accept the Prado Mona as a Leonardo original. Alfonso Rubino, a specialist in the geometry of Leonardo, showed that Leonardo worked the geometry found in his design of the Vitruvian Man into his paintings. Rubio says the Prado Mona contains a stage of Leonardo’s geometric constructions, and therefore must be by Leonardo.
Here’s why I question the attribution. Leonardo started painting his Louvre Mona in Florence and didn’t finish it (not that he ever finished any of his paintings) even after working on it for four years. He took the painting with him wherever he went. He even schlepped it to France when he worked for King Francis I. And he had it with him when he died. He left it to his favorite pupil Salai, who sold it to the king.
Obviously Leonardo coveted the Louvre Mona. The Prado Mona didn’t figure in his story.
Moral: Science can tell cognoscenti a lot, http://www.examiner.com/article/when-art-disagrees-with-science-1 but so can history.