Copying the Mona Lisa

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Copying the Mona Lisa (click any image to enlarge)
I found the above picture at Vintage Everyday's post Photos of Louvre in 1953. The center painting in it is the Mona Lisa. After being surprised how it was hung -- for some reason I had always imagined it being in a room by itself -- I started wondering how one went about getting permission to setup an easel next to it and paint a copy. 

I searched the web a bit trying to find out how one applies for permission to copy it in person, but had no luck finding any information. That's probably a good thing, I doubt they would have approved of my plan of using a paintball gun to reproduce it. Alas, us great arteests are always misunderstood in our own time.

I did find out that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 by Vincenzo Peruggia, a worker at the Louvre. He was arrested a couple of years later, and the painting returned when, claiming he wanted it returned to its rightful place in Italy, he tried to sell it to a couple of Italian collectors. Peruggia became a sort of Italian hero because of his story and only spent a year in jail.

Later a con artist named Marques Eduardo de Valfierno claimed he was the one who actually planned the heist and hired Peruggia to carry it out. He further claimed that he had several copies made which he sold to private collectors and netted $90 million in the process. Sadly, as colorful as his story was, none of it ever checked out.

I also found out that the Prado Museum in Spain as discovered they have what is believed a contemporaneous copy of the Mona Lisa. Below is a detail of that copy. They think that it was painted by an apprentice of Leonardo. 

Detail of the Prado Museum's copy of the Mona Lisa
And finally there is Marcel Duchamp's Mona Lisa which is a significant piece of art from the Dada movement. Not a copy, it is a print of the Mona Lisa on which Duchamp scribbled a moustache and goatee and inscribed "L.H.O.O.Q." which, when spelled out in French, forms a pun which translates to "She has hot pants." 

 Detail of Marcel Duchamp's Mona Lisa

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