An Early Copy of the ‘Mona Lisa’ Is Coming Up for Auction. Here’s What You Need to Know About It

The French School copy of 'Mona Lisa' is coming to Artcurial.

French school after Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (circa 1600). Courtesy of Artcurial.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa might just be the singularly most famous painting in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also one of the most replicated. While many of us are familiar with 20th century creative interpretations by the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, artists in the 16th and 17th centuries were inspired to copy the famed visage, too. 

Dozens of such versions are known to exist and now, one such copy is coming to auction at the Old Masters & 19th Century sale at Artcurial in Paris on November 9. With an estimate of €150,000 to €200,000, this version is a bit more valuable than most—and there’s reason for that.

Dated to circa 1600 and attributed to the French School of painters, this Mona Lisa possesses several sought-after elements, according to the auction house. It is painted on an oak panel, for instance, which supports its relatively early dating.

By-and-large faithful to the original composition, the artist has also subtly imbued this version with a distinct style. Two columns of the loggia on either side of the model are shown more prominently than in the original. The skin tone of the hands and face are executed with great sensitivity, but subtle touches of impasto are used to emphasize the shape of the face, the chin, the neckline, and the finger joints. A slightly more graphic sensibility is evident in the depiction of the Mona Lisa’s sleeves as well as the rocky landscape in the background. 

Perhaps most significantly, this version may have been painted in the presence of the original. Leonardo’s Mona Lisa was brought to France following the artist’s death in 1519 and sold to King Francois I. 

“Its faithfulness to the original and the intelligence of the reproduction suggest that the artist may have had access to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and been able to examine it carefully,” Artcurial wrote in a statement. “It seems reasonable to imagine that this skillfully painted and sensitive copy could have been painted in the same environment as the Mona Lisa, that had been acquired by François I: at Fontainebleau itself, where, under the reign of Henri IV, talented artists from the so-called second school of Fontainebleau gravitated.” 

For those who happen to be in Paris and would prefer to skip the lines at the Louvre, this version of the Mona Lisa is on view at Artcurial from November 5 to 8, before it goes under the hammer. 

Below, see a sneak preview video of the painting. 

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