The Mona Lisa Foundation

Is The ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ A Copy?

Some critics of the painting claim that the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ is a copy of the ‘Mona Lisa’ in the Louvre. The Mona Lisa Foundation points to the following reasons as to why it is not a copy:

Unique Composition:

Apart from the long-admired sitting position of the subject, the architecture of the painting is completely novel. The foundation is unable to identify any other painting, executed prior to this one, with a similar composition.

Flanking Columns:

The use of these columns in the structure of this painting is fundamental to the composition. As an element in portraiture, Leonardo had never before utilized this idea. The traces of columns and bases that can be seen today in the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’ can be argued to be a later addition (as they cover an underlying layer of background), and never part of its original composition.

Sitting Angle:

The sitting position of the subject is angled differently that the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’. The subject is leaning forward more slightly, and the body is angled further from the viewer. This sitting position is also emphasized in the neck muscles.


The figure in the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ is clearly younger, and, some say, more beautiful, than the ‘Louvre Version’. This face has never been represented like this in any other painting.

 ‘Support’ Material:

The portrait was painted on canvas. To be a copy of the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’, it would likely have been painted on wood.


The size of the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ painting is significantly larger that its Louvre counterpart. In addition, the figure is significantly smaller. A copyist would likely have made them virtually the same size.


A pioneering use of simple Tuscan landscape was employed, without the later embellishments of ‘Alpine’ mountains, or numerous water details. This would not have originated from the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’.

Different artists:

Tests have shown that some elements were executed by a different hand than the rest of the composition. These were possibly added later by a different artist or artists. A version of the original composition is seen in a 17th Century copy in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo.


Details of the embroidery on the blouse are unique, different from those in the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’, and from any copy of either.

Extra Detail:

Due to the larger ‘canvas’ size, there is more detail at the bottom of the picture than can be seen in others: a prime example being the chair. Therefore other Mona Lisa paintings, without that extra detail, would hardly have pre-dated the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’.


Pascal Cotte has confirmed (January, 2011), the following statement: “(the painting) has some clear underdrawings (by the columns and maybe elsewhere) signifying that it is not a direct copy.

A copy would likely have been painted by one artist, and at the same time. The ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ shows elements that were likely added to Leonardo’s work, by another artist or artists; as well as evidence that this occurred over an extended period of time.

A critic recently gave the following explanation to explain why the painting has features different to that in the Louvre: “This is probably because the copyist … just painted it that way”.

The foundation’s stance is that this is a tautological argument: to imply that a painting is a copy because that is the way a copyist painted it does not hold much credence and ignores the possible reasons for all the highlighted differences.