Mona Lisa: Was There More Than One?

Could Leonardo da Vinci have painted Mona Lisa twice?

  • Share
  • Read Later

This picture taken on a TV screen on September 27, 2012 in Geneva shows comparison lines between the "Isleworth Mona Lisa" (L) and the Louvre's "Mona Lisa", during the unveiling by the Mona Lisa Foundation.

Could it have been possible that Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, twice? According to Mona Lisa Foundation, the answer is yes. The Zurich-based organization made buzz last week by announcing that an earlier version of the famed painting — in which Mona Lisa appeared younger, slimmer and happier — is authentic.

(MOREMr. Mona Lisa: Did a Male Model Inspire Da Vinci?)

But why would she grace the Italian master’s canvas twice — first in 1503 and then 14 years later — with the exact pose and expression? The real question, according to Oxford art history professor Martin Kemp, is why she appears on canvas at all: Da Vinci normally used wood as his medium. In an email recently sent to The Associated Press, Kemp claimed that the earlier version, also known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, is a forgery.

(PHOTOS: Imitations of Mona Lisa)

Too many doubts persist over the Isleworth Mona Lisa for it to be considered authentic, according to Kemp. For one, it lacks the meticulous attentiveness Da Vinci focused on the version hanging in the Lourve.

“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 … ” Kemp wrote. “The landscape is devoid of atmospheric subtlety. The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original.”

But the Mona Lisa Foundation said it spent 35 years verifying all the historic, scientific and forensic evidence, and has concluded that Da Vinci did indeed paint the Islesworth Mona Lisa. But while it maintains the work’s authenticity, it acknowledges two key issues: for some reason the master didn’t finish the Isleworth painting — nor did he paint every part of it, according to BBC.

Kemp has his own explanation for these discrepancies: he says that the Isleworth painting was merely executed by a nameless artist who decided to recreate the Mona Lisa painting with a younger version of the subject.