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.
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