So, I'm back in LA, my wood panels have passed muster, and I've begun the project in earnest!
I've cut my test panel down to the final dimensions, and am ready to cut the favored panel to the same dimensions. I found that when I enlarged plates from the Mona Lisa book, the enlargements weren't correct. The length was right, but the width was a half inch too narrow according to published dimensions of the painting. After some head scratching, I decided that unless the camera with which the photos were taken was EXACTLY parallel to the surface of the painting, some distortion would occur in the image. I adjusted the plates in Photoshop using the tilt tool to eliminate the distortions, but then wanted to be sure that the panel would still be relatively square in spite of its uneven edges. I cut the first panel, then built a frame for it to check the panel's fit. It looked pretty good!
I'll now cut the actual panel to size (let's call it the hero panel) and build frames for each (the test and the hero panel) to keep the panels from warping during the priming and painting processes. The state of the Mona Lisa's panel shows that it was most likely primed and painted in a frame attached to the wood panel as it came from a guild carpenter for painting. I'll be recreating that in mine, of course.
I've noticed that the hero panel began to cup slightly almost immediately after I uncrated the panels. The warping is similar to what the actual painting is doing, so I'm oddly encouraged by this!
I'll be applying sizing and applying gesso to the panels soon. And be ready for progress pictures!
I'll also be shooting videos of the work in progress and posting those as I go.