For those who may have missed the news, a new copy of the world’s most famous oil painting has been “discovered”. We put “discovered” in quotation marks because apparently the canvas had been lying in a corner of Spain’s Prado Museum before someone had the inkling to clean it and discover a lively and absolutely beautiful copy of the Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, complete with bright hues, a complex Tuscan background and that alluring smile that has charmed millions for centuries. So why did it take so long for the oil painting to be discovered?

Experts at Madrid’s Prado Museum stumbled on the reproduction having for years assumed it was one of the dozens of replicas painted after Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519. Their thinking was also motivated by the fact a thick layer of black paint was painted over all the background – however, once the background was stripped away, the bright and detailed Tuscan background remarkably matched the original, and more detailed analysis began. This led experts from the Prado and the Louvre to conclude that it was most likely a copy completed at exactly the same time as the original, done by one of two of Leonardo da Vinci’s star apprentices, Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi (most experts think it was Melzi, but obviously we’ll never know). X-rays of the painting showed that changes made to the original and the copy matched nearly exactly in terms of how the paintings were composed and executed.

The similarities between the original and the copy are so similar that the Prado Museum’s deputy director of collections Gabriele Finaldi said “it is as if we were in the same studio, standing at the next easel…You can imagine that this is what the Mona Lisa looked like back in the 16th century.” Indeed we can – members of the public can now have a much more detailed voyeuristic look into Lisa Gherardini, who was probably in her 20s. She was the wife of a Florentine cloth merchant and experts widely agreed largely the subject of the painting.

The Prado’s director for Italian painting Miguel Falomir said the copy gave art lovers and experts a chance “to admire the Mona Lisa with totally different eyes.” The one big difference, he noted, was that the copy had eyebrows, while the original Mona Lisa did not. We have to give props for the realistic qualities of the copy!

In other news, but on a related topic, the power of Da Vinci paintings to potentially heal the Euro crisis was pointed out by noted writer A.A. Gill in his Bloomberg column. The recent exhibition of Da Vinci paintings at the National Gallery brought unprecedented levels of cooperation between famous museums and countries and an unprecedented number of visitors to London – but can governments do the same for fiscal responsibilities on a national budgetary scale? In the spirit of the visionary that was Da Vinci, we’d like to think “yes”.