This is a shot of Mona as she sits right now...
I've begun distressing the gold on the frame using steel wool, sandpaper and an agate burnisher; rubbing and abrading the gold away as needed. I'm formulating a colored glaze to rub over the frame to lend a "dirt in the crevasses" look to finish the antiquing. The frame and the back of the panel are nearly finished.
The paper framing tape has been applied to the back of the panel and distressed. Just a couple touches to finish that up! The painting, when framed in the flexible frame and the decorative frame combined, weighs in at 35 pounds! Crazy! I'm looking into having a display case made, so that the back of the panel is visible while the painting is being displayed. Next, however, will be to place Mona back in her temporary flex frame, which I use when I'm actually applying paint to panel, and beginning the final passes at detailing the dress!
Well, I figured I'd work on the back of the panel and the frame, probably finish both, then move to the front of the panel again and focus on finishing the painting.
What have I done?
Well, I used a Dremel and wood chisels to cut two recesses for butterfly braces in the back of the panel. One of the recesses has a walnut butterfly glued in place. Linen canvas pieces have been glued into the other recess and along the crack in the panel. At least that's where they are on the original. My version has a crack in the top of the panel too, but about an inch or so to the left of the one in the original. Unfortunately, the bracing location doesn't stabilize the crack in my version at all, but I'd rather be true to the original.
I also replicated some of the markings on the back of the original panel. The H and the number 29 are done with conte crayon and pencil, respectively, as well as the la Jaconde hand written script at the top left of the back. There's a red stamp inventory marking on the lower right that I created artwork for and had a rubber stamp made. Then it was a simple matter of stamping the image on the back of the panel. There's also some printed text near the butterfly recesses. I Photoshopped artwork from a scan of the back of the panel and printed out the text. Then I soaked the paper in strong coffee and dried and cut the strips to glue in place on the back of the panel. Once the glue dried, I used an Xacto blade to distress the paper to match the original. I'm waiting on the delivery of 2" wide white gummed paper tape to adhere around the edges of the panel and rip and distress accordingly. The addition of the tape and drilling insect holes in the back should just about wrap up the back of the panel.
The back of the panel was previously aged using a strong tea solution as well as a solution made from soaking steel wool in white vinegar.
For the frame, I bought 23K gold leaf and applied it to the previously stained frame. I had also applied a thin irregular coat of red bole under the leaf. I used water gilding to attach the leaf. Once the frame was completely leafed, I used steel wool and a burnisher to scrape and wear away the leaf to match the original frame. Still working on that. I printed out photos of the real frame to guide me on the antiquing. The photos below show the aging process so far.
A break from set duties gave me a chance to get a little more paint on Mona and to begin the steps to complete the frame. I'll have to post shots of the BACK of the panel, too, as I cut in a recess for the walnut butterfly in the back that keeps the split in the original in check My panel has a split going in ALMOST the same location (it was a happy accident, really, not planned.) Hopefully, the butterfly on my panel is in close enough proximity to the split that it'll secure that on my version.
So, what have I done? I continue to fine tune shading and detail. Mostly in layers of glazes on the arms and dress. I printed up enlargements of the Prado Mona Lisa because the background is less obscured than the original. I've begun to map out the detail in the landscape, which in the original is pretty hard to decipher because of the darkened varnish. Once the details are laid in, I'll mute everything to bring it into the realm of Leonardo's painting.
I also have started darkening the veil on the left of Mona's face, and darkened the chair and lower portion of the painting. Oh, and I've drawn in more deatil in the veil on the right side shoulder.
As for the frame, I applied a layer of American Walnut stain to replicate the exposed wood tone on the original frame. From this point, the frame will be gold leafed, then aged and distressed to match the real frame.
Well, after months of anticipation, the incredibly all hand-carved frame arrived! I'm very pleased and excited to have it finished! Or...unfinished, really. I still have to stain, age and gild the frame, and of course finish the painting! And finish the BACK of the panel as well...but it's getting there, and I think the frame is an amazing addition! Thanks so much to Ian Agrell and his great team!
Look Familiar? For those of you who have seen the real thing, you may remember the Renaissaance-era frame that the Mona Lisa occupies at la Louvre. This is a fantastic section done as a test by Ian Agrell and his team in northern California. It's all hand carved poplar, and I think it's a great recreation of the original. Ian will be carving the frame, as I determined I was pretty inept as a wood carver. I want the frame to reflect the same concept as the painting. That is to say, I made an effort to get poplar panels to paint on, hand ground my own oil paints and tried to re-create Leonardo's technique. I originally was going to sculpt and cast the frame, but I want the frame to be as close to the original as possible, too. The frame that holds the Mona Lisa is a renaissance era frame that was all hand carved. In researching frames from that area and era. I determined that the frame is most likely hand carved poplar, which was either gold leafed or painted. Ian does beautiful work in recreating moldings of various types and took on the project as well. I'm looking forward to the final frame!
I found an incredible new supplier of lapis lazuli pigment, Master Pigments, who grind their own pigment from raw stones and refine according to Cennino Cennini's formula. The paint made from this pigment is AMAZING! I repainted the sky and started cleaning up areas of the dress. I've added in vermillion shadings in the face as well. I'll clean up SO much more in the final version of the painting. I also have glazed in highlights on the chest and face with lead white. I'll continue to develop the painting as I go.
I also have contracted with a master woodcarver to hand carve the frame! I should be getting a sample soon. I'll be sure to post pictures as soon as I get the sample carving!