A current exhibition in the Museo del Prado provides insights into the working methods of Leonardo da Vinci's workshop.
Almost ten years ago, new revelations behind the copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in the Museo del Prado in Madrid came to light. The background, black lacquer instead of the Tuscan landscape of the original, was analyzed and on closer examination, turned out to be overpainting from the middle of the 18th century. In fact, this Mona Lisa, with its superbly preserved details, sits in front of a rocky landscape that resembles that in the world-famous portrait of a woman. In addition, X-ray examinations showed preliminary drawings under the two paintings and also some corrections made during the painting process that are identical to the original painting. The conclusion was that the Mona Lisa in the Prado is not a later copy of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but a version that was created around the same time with Leonardo's work in his workshop.
The exhibition, Leonardo and the copy of the Mona Lisa. New approaches to the artist’s studio practices, which can be seen in the Prado until January 23, 2022, is the first time that the "second Mona Lisa" takes center stage and showcases Leonardo da Vinci in his role as teacher. The exhibition summarizes the research results that the Museo del Prado has been able to develop in recent years in collaboration with the Louvre, the Laboratory for Molecular Archeology of the Sorbonne and the National Gallery in London on the working methods in Leonardo's workshop.
In addition to the Mona Lisa del Prado, other works are featured in the exhibit that are based on Leonardos' paintings or sketches by his students, the preparation of which was supervised and authorized by Leonardo.
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For Leonardo, the focus of his teaching was on conveying his original painting concepts and the sfumato technique that he had mastered of blurring colors in transition. The embellishment of his sketches by his students also enabled the busy Leonardo to check the actual effect of his teaching, while allowing his students to maintain their own style.