The Museo del Prado is presenting the conclusions of the technical study and restoration of its version of La Gioconda
The painting is on display from today until 13 March in Room 49 of the Museum before it travels to the Louvre for inclusion in a temporary exhibition. The principal conclusion of the recent restoration and study of the work lies in its identification as a work by Leonardo’s studio, painted at the same time as the original. Comparison of technical documentation on the two works, the copy and the original, has revealed the successive phases in the creation of Leonardo’s Gioconda (Musée du Louvre) and has allowed for a better understanding of that painting
Monday 20 February 2012
The Prado today presented the methods and results of the technical study and restoration that the Museum has recently carried out on its copy of La Gioconda. The painting has been in the Museum’s collection since its foundation, having previously been in the Spanish royal collections. The recently completed project, which was initiated two years ago and is sponsored by Fundación IberdrolaMusée du Louvre and that it is the oldest copy of it, in addition to being the most important version of La Gioconda known to date. The results of this new study, which principally derive from a comparison of the two works and from a study of the technical documentation obtained during this project, are of real importance for the history of art in that they allow for a better understanding of the original painting and for an appreciation of details in it that had not been previously noticed or fully understood.
The Prado’s copy of La Gioconda was formerly in the Spanish royal collection although it is not known when or how it arrived. The painting has been the subject of a technical study and restoration process that was requested two years ago by the Louvre in relation to the inclusion of the painting in the exhibition opening at that museum this March entitled L’ultime chef-d’oeuvre de Léonard de Vinci, la Sainte Anne (29 March to 25 June 2012). This project, which has involved the recuperation of the original appearance of the Prado’s painting, means that this copy is now one of the most important sources of information for working procedures in Leonardo’s studio, given that it is now considered to be by one of his pupils or assistants who worked on it in the studio while Leonardo was painting his original. For this reason the Prado’s panel is now considered the most important version known to date of Leonardo’s celebrated painting in the Louvre.
An initial comparison of infra-red reflectographs of the two paintings yielded results of such interest that it was decided to examine the Prado’s painting in more depth and to proceed to its restoration. The technical study undertaken followed the Prado’s normal procedures and involved infra-red reflectography, x-radiography, ultra-violent induced visible fluorescence and examination under binocular magnifier. One of the most important discoveries arising from these analyses, and which again supports the conclusions of the present study - undertaken with the aim of determining how the work was painted and its state of preservation – was the fact that the Prado version is painted on a walnut panel. This wood is used for other small-format panels by Leonardo and his studio, including The Lady with the Ermine, La Belle Ferronière and Saint John the Baptist. In addition, it was revealed that the painting does not have a traditional gesso preparatory layer, but rather a double one of lead white and linseed oil. Although unusual, this type of ground appears in numerous works by Leonardo and his studio.