The other Mona Lisa
There is no other artist quite like Leonardo Da Vinci. Over the ages, humanity at large has been fascinated by his paintings, sculptures and writings, many of which are thought to be vehicles for otherworldly and mysterious forces, coded masterpieces that are embedded with powerful messages.
One of his most intriguing paintings is the Mona Lisa, a brilliantly composed portrait of a woman known as Lisa Gherardini, who was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant. Its global iconic status and the reverence afforded to it is unique, with historians and scholars alike beguiled by an unknowing feeling that radiates from its surprisingly small canvas (77cm x 53cm).
This ongoing intrigue in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa shows no signs of ever slowing down as it has produced another sensational twist, with a foundation based in Zurich claiming that after 35 years of intensive research on a similar painting, the work of art is in fact another version of the world famous portrait.
According to the Mona Lisa Foundation, the painting, which is said to have been made ten years prior to the one the world knows, is undeniably the handiwork of Da Vinci.
The Isleworth Mona Lisa was first discovered in a Somerset manor house in 1913 by the English art collector Hugh Blaker. It is believed to have hung unnoticed there for at least 100 years. Sensing something in the work, he took it with him to his home in Isleworth, London, hence the name.
After his death, it was snapped up by an American art collector by the name of Henry F. Pulitzer, who was convinced it had been executed by the Italian Renaissance artist. It then made its way back to Italy, where it was further examined, after which it ended up in a bank vault in Switzerland, where it has subsequently remained for over 40 years.
“So far, not one scientific test has been able to disprove that the painting is by Leonardo,” the art historian Stanley Feldman, an art historian and foundation member, told the Associated Press. “We have used methods that were not available to Leonardo 500 years ago.”
Mr Feldman explained that based on mathematical comparisons, regressions tests and examination of historical and archival documentation, all evidence pointed to one author.
Take the mathematical approach as an example. Analysis shows that all elements of the two women are located in the same place to such a fine degree, that the idea of the Isleworth version being produced by someone else is incredulous.
One test they did involved aligning both paintings up, even though it has to be noted that they are different sizes. Because the techniques of “proportion and related geometric measurements” seem to mimic one another, the portraits could only have been painted by “someone intimately familiar with both, and who had the intention to create two different paintings of the same subject”.
Mr Feldman, who is also the principal author of a newly released book entitled Mona Lisa: Leonardo’s Earlier Version, added: “It strikes us that in order for that to be so accurate, so meticulously exact, only the person who did one did the other … It’s an extraordinary revelation in itself, and we think it’s valid.”
However, while the Mona Lisa Foundation is adamant that their comprehensive judgement is based on diligent scrutiny and objective testing, others remain unconvinced, arguing that the Isleworth version, which shows a much younger Mona Lisa, was made almost a century after the original.
Responding to the foundation’s announcement, Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of the history of art at Oxford University, said that there are key variations in the copy that disprove its genuineness.
“The Isleworth Mona Lisa mistranslates subtle details of the original, including the sitter’s veil, her hair, the translucent layer of her dress, the structure of the hands,” he clarified. “The landscape is devoid of atmospheric subtlety. The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original.”
Mr Kemp also went so far as to say that the foundation’s investigations through the use of infrared reflectography and X-rays, actually contradicts their claims, as it reveals none of the trademarks that are usually found within a Da Vinci work.
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