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Louvre confirms redating of the Mona Lisa

Leonardo finished the famous portrait more than a decade later than previously thought, as The Art Newspaper first reported

The Louvre's restored "Virgin and Child with St Anne" by Leonardo

The Louvre has confirmed the radical redating of the Mona Lisa, after our web report (see related story). Until now Leonardo’s portrait has been dated to around 1503-6, but this is being formally altered to about 1503-19. This important redating is presented in the catalogue of the Louvre’s exhibition “Saint Anne, Leonardo da Vinci’s Ultimate Masterpiece” (29 March-25 June).

The change is a result of the Louvre’s recent scientific work on Leonardo. An examination of the gallery’s Virgin and Child with St Anne and the Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa suggests that they too share the same new dating, and could have been worked on shortly before the artist’s death in France in 1519.

Part of the evidence comes from the Prado copy. As we reported on 7 March, the background landscape in the both the copy and original of the Mona Lisa seems to be partly based on a drawing which the Royal Collection dates to about 1515-20 (it is on display in the Louvre show, along with 21 other loans from The Queen).

The Louvre’s exhibition marks the completion of the conservation of the Virgin and Child with St Anne. This restoration was sponsored by Barry Lam, the chairman of the Taiwan-based Quanta Computer company and a major collector of Chinese paintings. On show for the first time is the back of the panel, on which three drawings were discovered four years ago.

The original of the Mona Lisa remains in its permanently crowded room in the main galleries, where a new label with revised dating will be added shortly. The Prado copy, which is in the "Saint Anne" exhibition, is likely to be taken there for a few hours so that a small group of specialists can study the works side by side, when the museum is closed. The copy should reveal more about the original—for instance, the Prado version depicts several hilltop towns in the background landscape, which are now missing in the original.

More from The Art Newspaper

Comments

12 Apr 12
14:47 CET

C. CHANTASINGH, NAKHON PATHOM, THAILAND

The last comment is very interesting. I wonder if it is at all possible to get a copy of the article mentioned "“Leonardo’s Val di Chiana Map in the Mona Lisa”, in, Cartographica, 46:3, 2011, at http://digital.utpjournals.com/issue/43517/7" I tried to access the website but it's 'members only' domain. Anyone willing to share a copy on-line? I would be immensely grateful. My interest is purely academic since I'm a literature teacher.

2 Apr 12
21:17 CET

DERIC WOOD, TOKYO

Of course there may be an earlier version of the portrait, actually completed for Francesco del Giocondo. This commission, as recorded, seems to be forgotten.

2 Apr 12
15:34 CET

TONY SCRIVENER, LONDON

Thank you for an interesting article. It has always been fascinating as regards to dating works and also the art that comes from the studio, yet not from the hand of the master,

2 Apr 12
15:33 CET

ARTLOVER, SPEYER

The Louvre and Prado had an argument in 1910 who was the owner of the real Mona Lisa. Walter Littlefield tried to solve the situation:he wrote for the century magazine in 1914 an article and attributed the two canvases both to Leonardo. The style of the Prado painting shows that Giampietrino is the most possible pupil.He painted often in a close collaboration with Leonardo. Melzi had a different style and was probably too young because it is highly possible that the Prado painting was finished before 1505. Leonardo painted almost every canvas in collaboration with his pupils. He was introduced in the workshop methods when he worked together with his master and teacher Andrea Verrocchio. Leonardo was obsessed from the fragment and therefore he realized that he could bring his many brilliant ideas to the light only in close collaborations. It was for him impossible and useless to teach his pupils to work in his sfumato style in which the Louvre Lisa was painted over a 10 years period

30 Mar 12
15:1 CET

MICHAEL HARRINGTON, LOS ANGELES

Interestingly, the fiction book, Saving Mona Lisa, explores these various hypotheses and offers a story that fits the newly revealed information. Published in 2010. Coincidence?

29 Mar 12
17:53 CET

DONATO, LONDON, ONTARIO

How likely is it that, in 1503, Leonardo started painting the Mona Lisa while a pupil started painting the Prado copy and each worked on their respective panels, with student mimicking the master, until Leonardo’s death in 1519? The so-called experts are taking a claim of a resemblance of the rocky outcrop drawings to the landscape in the Mona Lisa. The more likely match would be one with the landscape sketches of 1510-15, of which the rocky outcrop is but one, to the paintings of the same period, Madonna of the Yarnwinder and Virgin and Child with St Anne and Lamb. The sketches and Leonardo’s landscapes, including that in the Mona Lisa, all share the same characteristics. They, like his maps, are based on ground level surveys of actual places that Leonardo translated into aerial views. This is more thoroughly explained in the article, “Leonardo’s Val di Chiana Map in the Mona Lisa”, in, Cartographica, 46:3, 2011, found at http://digital.utpjournals.com/issue/43517/7.

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