Though it has been known of for some time, a painting known as the “Isleworth Mona Lisa” was officially unveiled in Geneva yesterday by the Mona Lisa Foundation.
The painting was uncovered by an English art collector, Hugh Baker, in 1913, and kept in his studio in Isleworth, London for several years, which is how the name was appended.
The Mona Lisa Foundation, a Swiss consortium, has kept the painting in a bank vault in Switzerland for the last 40 years. Backed by a research physicist from the U.S., a forensic image expert and an Italian expert on Leonardo’s work, the foundation has put forward a 300 page publication documenting their investigation and suggesting that the painting was indeed painted by Leonardo, and is the first portrait of the Italian noblewoman, portraying her at a younger age.
It is larger than the hyper-famous painting in the Louvre, and is painted on canvas rather than on wood, Leonardo’s usual preferred surface.
This, and other factors have led other experts to call the suggested attribution into question. They assert that the painting is likely a copy painted by another artist shortly after the original, in which the copyist has projected a younger version of the subject (see my recent post on the Mona Lisa copy from Da Vinci’s workshop in the Prado in Madrid).
In this version, the woman’s expression is less enigmatic, obviously a smile (though still, as I have pointed out, asymmetrical in the degree to which each side is turned up).
The Mona Lisa Foundation website has a variety of images and resources, including an interactive comparison in which they have juxtaposed the two versions, with the facial features matched up as closely as possible, allowing you to reveal more or less of each version with a slider.
It will be interesting to see if other experts are permitted access to the Isleworth painting and, if so, what conclusions are drawn.
I will say one thing, which is usually the bottom line for me in my assessment of any work in which attribution is in question — whatever the results from the experts regarding who painted it, this looks like a beautiful painting.