Mona Lisa has a sister it seems.
Spain's Prado art museum said Wednesday it had discovered an unusual copy of Leonardo da Vinci's La Gioconda, painted by one of the master's pupils at the same time that the original was being completed.
The copy had been on display at the Madrid art museum for years without experts being aware of its importance.
A routine restoration led experts to discover that the dark background behind the female figure popularly known as Mona Lisa had been added afterwards, and that it covered an Italian landscape similar to that in da Vinci's original.
The copy artist had also repeated da Vinci's corrections, leading experts to conclude that he had copied La Gioconda in the master's workshop in Florence while the original was being painted.
The painting is the same size as La Gioconda and dates from the first third of the 16th century, as does the original. It is believed to have been painted by either Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi, who were among da Vinci's closest pupils.
The origin of the copy has been confirmed by experts both at the Prado and at the Louvre in Paris, which hosts the original painting.
The copy has been better preserved than the original, making Mona Lisa look younger than in da Vinci's painting.
The copy will be presented officially Feb. 21 before being lent to the Louvre for an exhibition in June, museum officials said.
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