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Spot the difference: Mona Lisa replica goes under the hammer in Paris

One lucky fan of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” could soon own their own cut-priced version of the iconic portrait, as a 17th-century copy goes up for auction at Sotheby’s in Paris. 

The copy, by an unknown artist, was probably painted 100 years after Leonardo’s early 16th-century original, the head of the Old Masters’ department at Sotheby’s, Baukje Coenen, said. 

Estimated to sell for between 70,000 and 90,000 euros (77,000 to 99,000 U.S. dollars) at auction on November 19, the copy is more affordable than the original. The current owner, Wim Delvoye, bought it in 2010 for 35,000 euros (38,500 U.S. dollars). 

“You can never come up close (to the original) unless you are very, very privileged, so this is maybe a way of actually looking at her without all the big bomb case and people in front of it taking selfies”, Coenen told Reuters. 

Unlike Leonardo’s famous work, the copy has columns either side of the central figure, and is slightly larger, measuring 81 centimetres tall rather than 77. 

Painted on canvas rather than poplar panel like the original, this Mona Lisa is one of around 150 copies in circulation produced between the 16th and 19th centuries. 

Because the copies were made before the dawn of photography, each painter would need to be in front of the original — or another copy — to paint a reproduction. Famous artists like Titian and Rembrant used to copy paintings to practice different techniques and train their eye. 

Auctions of works associated with da Vinci have been highly unpredictable in recent years. In 2017, his “Salvator Mundi” sold at auction for 450 million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a painting. 

Because of this price bump, Coenen said, another copy of the Mona Lisa sold at Sotheby’s in New York for 1.6 million dollars in January, more than ten times the estimated value of 80,000-120,000. 

“Anything to do with Da Vinci, even if it’s pupils, copies, followers, it brings surprises. We never know”, she said. 

(Production: Thierry Chiarello, Kathryn Carlson)

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