Seeing Double: Another Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa

“You learn something new every day.”

My mother liked to say that, and while it may not always be true as we get older, back then it certainly rang true. Well I’m happy to say it is true again today.

We just learned that there is another Mona Lisa. That’s right; Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece in the Louvre is not alone.

In fact, the other one, the Isleworth Mona Lisa, has been known about for years but is recently getting some well-deserved attention, so when we heard about it, naturally we had to investigate.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa

While we can hardly claim to be experts, we can share what we discovered.

The work is an oil on canvas from the early sixteenth-century and depicts a younger rendition of the same woman, Lisa del Giocondo, as the more famous painting hanging in the Louvre. Yet even though it is over five hundred years old, it was not very well known to the public until 1913.

That is when an English art enthusiast named Hugh Blaker acquired it from a mansion in Somerset and was convinced that there were two versions of Da Vinci’s portrait, and that the Isleworth version was actually the first one.

This would definitely be huge news, but proving these things can be tricky.

One problem is that Da Vinci, for all of his acclaim as an artist, didn’t produce many paintings. So there is not a lot to compare the Isleworth Mona Lisa to. Then again, we can make the comparison to the famous work in the Louvre, and several experts having done just that concluded that this is an original work by Leonardo da Vinci.

Even scientists have weighed in on the mystery. Over thirty years ago research physicist John Asmus from the University of California ran a number of tests and determined that the same artist painted at least the face in both works.

Later, professors Salvatore Lorusso and Andrea Natali of the Università di Bologna did extensive analysis and also arrived at the conclusion that this was Da Vinci’s work.

But perhaps some of the most compelling arguments come not from science or art experts, but from history.

For centuries it has been known that Raphael made a sketch of the Mona Lisa in 1504 after seeing it in Leonardo’s studio. The sketch’s background includes two Greek columns, which are not found in the Louvre’s Mona Lisa but are present in the Isleworth version.

In 2017 even the Louvre Museum got in on the debate when they published a story by Vincent Delieuvin that speculates how Raphael must have based his work on a Mona Lisa other than the one in the Louvre.

Still, even in the face of all of this evidence, many in the art world are unconvinced. Many point to the fact that the Isleworth painting is on canvass and Da Vinci generally worked on wood. However, there are several examples of the master using canvas as a medium.

So in 2012 the Mona Lisa Foundation of Zurich officially unveiled the painting and began displaying it in various public settings. They also presented their research and opinions as to the painting’s authenticity, which they feel strongly points to the Isleworth Mona Lisa being the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Now, as we said at the beginning, we don’t claim to be experts, but everything we have seen leads us to the same conclusion.

And just goes to show that we still can learn something new… at least some days.

David & Veronica,

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