So Dark the Port of Land
June 3, 2006 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Rough draft or a copy made by a Da Vinci acolyte? A painting entitled, "La Gioconda" which bears a striking resemblence to this one hangs in the distinctly non-Parisian Portland Museum of Art (Portland, Maine). Technical studies indicate that it was painted in 1510 (3-7 years after the orignal Mona Lisa). The Portland museum recently decided to re-display the painting [NB: link to public radio story] (having last hauled it out of the basement when the book came out).
posted by scblackman (17 comments total)
La Gioconda was analyzed at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University. Conservators determined that the painting was executed before 1510—the original Mona Lisa was created between 1503 and 1507

That's a far cry from the "Technical studies indicate that it was painted in 1510 (3-7 years after the (sic) orignal Mona Lisa)" mentioned in the FPP.

Interesting non the less. I can't imagine why they wouldn't have that on permanent display though. Cool find.
posted by furtive at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2006

furtive: I wonder if it might not be on permanent display due to light-sensitive issues, but I'm still surprised too it wouldn't be on some sort of semi-regular rotation over the years.

in any case, interesting link -- thanks.
posted by scody at 2:02 PM on June 3, 2006

This is fascinating. Imagine if this were a trial run for the most famous painting in the world. And it's only about forty five minutes from my house. I'm gonna have to get over there and have a look.
posted by Toecutter at 2:14 PM on June 3, 2006

Portland already likes to think it's "Little Boston", now they're really going to inflate their egos with the "Little Mona Lisa".

Nevertheless, this will be worth paying a visit to see.
posted by briank at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2006

If it was a copy of the original, shouldn't it have the pillars that were cropped when La Joconde was reframed?
posted by hyperizer at 2:46 PM on June 3, 2006

Is the monalisa itself light sensitive? Perhaps it should not be on permanent display either?

It's interesting, these paintings themselves were not really designed to last 400/500 years, and it's likely the artists didn't even know how sensitive they paints were to light.

On Painting I saw in a museum from that time period had bright colors, and I was told that that particular painter had used some different chemicals (completely on accident) that happened to keep their color far better.
posted by delmoi at 2:55 PM on June 3, 2006

This brings to mind a fascinating book I just read: The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr.
posted by ericb at 3:05 PM on June 3, 2006

ericb, thank you for the reminder of that book -- not only have I been meaning to read it myself, it looks like a good father's day gift for my dad!
posted by scody at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2006

the Mona Lisa is not exposed to direct sunlight, and flash photography is strictly forbidden its gallery, along with all of the ones with the equally valuable paintings which surround it.
posted by jb at 4:03 PM on June 3, 2006

jb: When I saw the room the Mona Lisa was in, it was filled with tourists taking photographs. The painting itself (or the double?) was in a huge case though, which probably have had some sort of protection in front.

I followed the signs all the way to the room which contained the Mona Lisa and when I got there I couldn't be bothered to wade through the crowd to see it.
posted by ODiV at 4:24 PM on June 3, 2006

and flash photography is strictly forbidden its gallery

Like ODiV said, this wasn't true when I visited a couple years ago. But, the transparent box it was in pretty much ensured bad pictures if you actually used a flash.
posted by odinsdream at 5:14 PM on June 3, 2006

Photography of any sort is now forbidden. At least, it was when I was there in February. This didn't stop countless people from attempting to take pictures of it with their cell phones, however.
posted by JeremyT at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2006

I can't imagine why they wouldn't have that on permanent display though.

It doesn't really fit very well with the rest of the PMA collection, frankly. PMA is a great museum, but it focuses mostly on American artists and craftsmen. Off the top of my head I can't really think of another European Renaissance painting in their collection. The last time I saw it on display it was kind of tucked away up on the third floor, in a niche all by itself, looking kinda tiny and forlorn.
posted by anastasiav at 9:11 PM on June 3, 2006

I wouldn't know what the policy was earlier - this was the policy as of April. It is interesting that French museums allow photography at all. I had a lot of fun playing with taking interesting photos of moving people against ancient monuments and famous paintings. But I felt sick everytime a flash went off -- flash was forbidden everywhere in the Orsay, and strongly discouraged in the Louvre (it's very damaging to all pigments). But still people ignorantly flashed away, not even thinking about it. (Nothing like seeing someone walk up to a priceless fresco, rarer than any painting, and flash away like a summer's worth of sunlight to make you furious.)

But in the galleries surrounding the Mona Lisa, they do not allow any photography. Around the Mona Lisa, it was not just because of the flash - they have guards standing there always -- but because of the way it held up the crowds. All of those paintings now have images online. Though I was very disapointed that I couldn't photograph the crowds looking at the Mona Lisa - they were fascinating. A mixture of curiosity, some disapointment, some wonder.

I have to say - it's worth it to line up through the crowds. Maybe it wasn't so bad when I was there, being April. But it only took a few minutes, and you have plenty of time to stand at the front and stare at the painting. You stare at this work that is so iconic, so reproduced that you know it so well. But in looking at it, at the depth of the colours, the shape of the eyes, the sense that, yes, they are looking at you, soft and yet maybe knowing, maybe a twinkle that had more to do with the artist than the sitter, you realise you never knew it at all.
posted by jb at 2:39 AM on June 4, 2006

ewww, Briank, Ppotrland doesn't think it's little Boston. It thinks it's a teeny-tiny San Francisco. On ice.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on June 4, 2006

Portland pwns, literally!!

posted by Misciel at 2:08 PM on June 6, 2006

(The name's a holdover from when the airport was officially called "Portland Westbrook Municipal"...)
posted by Misciel at 2:13 PM on June 6, 2006

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