Lines and Colors art blog

Leonardo’s younger Mona Lisa, or Mona wanna-be?

Younger Mona Lisa
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.


7 responses to “Leonardo’s younger Mona Lisa, or Mona wanna-be?”

  1. The woman in the “younger” portrait is less enigmatic but still beautiful, but the background is atrocious. It draws attention away from the face. It does nothing to enhance the subject of the painting.

  2. Charley, just want to say thanks for a wonderful blog, from a long time reader. You really fill a void in the blogosphere, and I hope you never stop.

  3. @mkproff, the younger painting is supposedly unfinished, and thus the sparse and sketchy background.

  4. It is hard to say anything without seeing the Isleworth original. However, for the sake of discussion (and having had the luck to see 7 or 8 Leonardo’s oils, incl. Louvre Mona Lisa) I would add that this Isleworth version lacks the refinement characteristic for Leonardo’s touch.
    Background is amateurishly painted. L wouldn’t do all those parallel diagonals. They are boring and unimaginative. Her right hand is one of the loveliest hand in history of art (in original). In Isleworth version her hands lack not only knuckles, but other anatomical nuances and subtleties, as well. They appear bloated. Her face looks “neoclassical”, if you understand my meaning. IMO, this is not done by Leonardo’s hand. It may be much later copy.

    1. Yes, I think the general consensus is that it was done by another hand, and the consortium is doing their best to make a case otherwise, and I agree that it’s probably not up to the master’s standards (though I haven’t seen a high res version), but I still think the face is beautiful, and I simply accept the background as unfinished.

      It makes for an interesting sources of conjecture, though. I assume it’s been reasonably established that the painting is appropriately old, painted at the time and not centuries later. If another artist was copying Leonardo’s painting after the fact, why make the background different, and, more curiously, why age regress the subject? Could the woman (or her husband) have wanted a portrait of her in her youth, and found Leonardo unable or unwilling to comply?

  5. Floyd Green Avatar
    Floyd Green

    Looks like the general idea of what a pretty young woman looks like – circa 1913.

  6. Maureen Connors Avatar
    Maureen Connors

    another mona lisa painted on a wood panel, by Artist Jack bauer , Im thinking of buying that painting, the artist told me his Mona lisa is 21 1/2 x 30 inches , And has taken him around three years to complete , he asked me to touch the oil painting on a wood panel, I did, was quite smooth to to the touch and Jack Bauer also told me the painting was painted in many layors Maureen connors