FEATURE: Painting the Mona Lisa


The original Mona Lisa by Leonardo

I must acknowledge at the outset that I am not the first person to have a fascination with the Mona Lisa, nor will I be the last. Neither am I the first, nor the last artist to attempt to reproduce the work, being simply one amongst many who have tried to make a faithful reproduction, with many more painting a deliberately surreal / satirised version to meet their personal objective of "adding interest" to something already interesting, but which is so familiar to both artists and public alike. Either approach represents a decent challenge to the artist. The familiarity of the work enables everyone to have a considered view on whether any artist's (faithful) attempt was successful, while that same familiarity is also the driver for other artists to "add their own originality" to the work.

I first painted the Mona Lisa decades ago, very early in my painting life. When attempting to make my own reproduction of it, "originality" was not in my thoughts. My motivation was entirely to make as true a representation of the original as I was then capabable, partly because I fully respected it as it was (as well as the genius of the man, Leonardo da Vinci, who created it) but mainly in order to test my technical capability as an artist. Further, in the pre-digital / computer era as it then was, and as my first "portrait" type work (having previously undertaken mainly landscapes) I did it entirely by hand and eye, with no means or inclination to co-ordinate the accuracy of the representation against the original (except by using my eyes) as would be done by most artists in the current day, especially those desiring to achieve optimal accuracy.

My earliest reproduction of the Mona Lisa, painted in oils. This old black & white photo is the only record I have of the painting.

I was 'reasonably happy' with the outcome, but more importantly, so too were viewers of the painting to whom I showed it. For reasons I cannot recall (it was quite a long time ago ...) it ended up in the local newspaper which gave me welcome coverage at the time (as a self-taught, unknown artist) and the ensuing encouragement helped to confirm my belief that I had the capability as an artist to continue what was at that time only a hobby and make it into something more.

So, although it's not my first ever (of which sadly, I have no photographic record) painting, it was done reasonably early in my painting career and is probably the one above all others which set me on my future way, which is sufficient reason for including it here.

Although I neglected to keep records of many, if not most of my paintings (not having the foresight to consider that decades later, such records might come in useful) I did keep a cutting of that early local newspaper coverage from over forty years ago, a section of which is shown below.


Photographs & Text courtesy of Lancashire Evening Telegraph, circa 1972

"... IT TOOK 400 hours, off and on for Anthony to paint his Mona Lisa in oils. It is a striking reproduction and one which reveals, perhaps for the first time, the actual background of the painting by Leonardo da Vinci. He is somewhat loath to part with it. Not because of any lack of buyers of his works – he has sold all the paintings he has executed in the past two years. “But there is something lingering in it for me,” he said, "perhaps the enigmatic smile?" ..."


Some of my current work can be seen on display (and bought) locally in Darwen, Lancashire from my good friends at Deli Carlo and the Sweet Vintage Tea Room, both conveniently situated by the market hall front entrance in Darwen town centre.