Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The enigmas of the Mona Lisa that the Prado has not solved

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If you came across the Mona Lisa on the street, it would never be the one in the Louvre, because it doesn’t exist. The one in the Prado, on the other hand, is real.

This is how Enrique Quintana, the person in charge of the museum’s restoration workshops, explained the difference between the most popular portrait in the history of painting and his version. According to this interpretation, Leonardo da Vinci carried out an endless experiment that ended up turning the subject, Lisa Gherardini, into another being, while one of his collaborators in the workshop attended to the commission of Francesco del Giocondo and portrayed his wife. She is the one who rests in the Prado, surrounded by onlookers who cannot photograph her and a mystery that, a decade after her rediscovery, the Spanish museum has not resolved: who painted the painting?

The question will not be revealed in the humble exhibition that the Prado opens this Monday, curated by Ana González Mozo, focused on the creative processes of Leonardo’s workshop. Works from the museum’s own wardrobe and some loans will be exhibited, with a double intention: “On the one hand, to delve into the new approaches and investigations of the latest scientific studies carried out and, on the other, to determine the various typologies of the versions made in Leonardo’s workshop”, according to the Prado. Ten years later, the traced version —which does not copy— will continue to be a mystery, but it will attend to two economic emergencies that condition the museum’s programming: very cheap assembly and with a strong public demand, that of Leonardo da Vinci.The so-called ‘Mona Lisa of Prado’

Miguel Falomir, director of the Prado Museum, has already advanced that they will not launch a hypothesis about the signature of the version of La Gioconda. So the painting will continue to play in the crazy league of attributions, where the eye is the pichichi of the arguments. It has been said of this painting that it could have been made by the German Hans Holbein, although when the painting was presented to the public in 2012, now without the black background that had covered the landscape for at least two and a half centuries, they signed up the names of Francesco Melzi and Andrea Salai. The Manchego Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina, Leonardo’s Spanish disciple, was immediately ruled out.

Is it exquisite or insignificant?

Falomir was one of the first researchers to approach the truth of the painting years before the discovery. In 1999 he published that the one in the Prado “should have been done in front of” the Louvre painting. What he did not imagine then is that it was in the same workshop. There was still no evidence to show that they were painted simultaneously, before Leonardo set out for France. The tracings with which the image was transported from one table to another demonstrate this. Ana González Mozo discovered a drawing that corrected the same thing that Leonardo corrected. His author is with him while he works.

Before these extraordinary investigations of the Prado workers, for some it was an exquisite portrait, and vulgar and insignificant for others. “Whoever it was, this is a discreet painter responsible for the anatomical imperfections in the model’s chest. He is also a painter technically and aesthetically far removed from Leonardo, which makes it inadvisable to identify him with any of his disciples. Possessing meticulous calligraphy, he is unaware of the Leonardesque sfumato , as it is perceived in the way of applying the color, without nuances and on surfaces limited by thick black lines”, wrote Miguel Falomir, who has never shown enthusiasm for this painting, before the discovery. From the bottom.Comparative detail

The author of the copy, as Falomir said, did not respect the mandate of the master Da Vinci, who demanded to eliminate the net profiles to maintain the link between the figure and its surroundings. He abused a very pronounced stroke, in such a way that the figure of the woman stands out on the landscape and detaches itself from it, like a chrome in an album. The version we see today of La Gioconda in the Louvre, dirty and rusty, blends perfectly into the background. The one in the Prado is a version with as much definition as the HD of current televisions. He also followed the elegance code of the time: plucking his eyebrows. Not only the ladies, but also the gentlemen, as Baltasar Castiglione wrote in his Courtesan .

‘Sfumato’, where?

Hence another unsolved enigma. If Leonardo da Vinci wanted to end the underlined silhouettes and wrote about it so that his own workshop would not put it into practice, why did he allow this work? The sfumato is one of the resources of his naturalist program at all costs, as are the aerial perspective and the revolutionary use of light and shadow, qualities in which the author of La Gioconda del Prado has a smaller fortune than that of the Louvre. It is very strange that this formula from the teacher has not passed to his disciples.

The stepsister of the most famous painting in the world had a black cape that hid the truth and, attached to it, another thick curtain of assumptions that distorted the portrait. So many centuries looking at her and so erroneously ended when Vincent Delieuvin looked at her. The curator of Italian painting at the Louvre Museum and an expert in Leonardo da Vinci was struck by the fact that it was the only copy of La Gioconda of all those preserved that did not look like La Gioconda. He asked the Prado for a study to include it in the temporary exhibition Santa Ana, the last masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci . It was then, mobilized by the Louvre’s request, that Ana González Mozo discovered in that dark background, thanks to reflectography, profiles that could be mountains.

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