Leonardo’s first version or is it a good copy?

Another Mona Lisa to be unveiled in Geneva

 The Isleworth Mona Lisa
It is amazing how Leonardo’s Mona Lisa continues to be not only the most copied painting in the world, but perennially newsworthy. Today while brunching I came across a story about an alleged new Leonardo – see an online article about this same find below.
Based on the newsprint version I have in front of me now, and which I have copied into this post, I’m siding with Martin, Kemp, emeritus profession of the history of art at Oxford and one of the world’s Leonardo experts. Kemp doesn’t believe it is by the Italian Master either.
   ‘So much about it is wrong, ‘ he said. ‘The dress, the hair and background landscape. This one is also painted on canvas, which Leonardo rarely did. ‘ Asked if the slightly younger appearance of the subject did not provide compelling evidence that it was genuine, Kemp said” ‘She might look younger but this is probably because the copyist…just painted it that way.’
For me, this ‘new’ version lacks the soul of the maestro as well as his technique. It is an inferior copy indeed and I will wait with interest to see the results of scientific testing – but even then I will remain a skeptic. Given the money at stake, and the increasing cleverness of fraudsters  I think it is comparably easy to dupe the experts when it comes to issues of providence.
Question remains whether painting is a later copy or from the master’s studio

By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 23 September 2012

The Isleworth Mona Lisa, a slightly larger version of the Louvre’s original, is due to be unveiled in Geneva on 27 September. A Swiss-based consortium, which owns the picture, argues that it is the first version of Leonardo’s portrait. This attribution is supported by Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, in the artist’s birthplace of Vinci. He will be presenting evidence he has gathered with Carlo Pedretti, of the University of California.

This version of the Mona Lisa was bought in 1914 by the artist and critic Hugh Blaker, who lived in Isleworth, in west London. Unlike the Louvre’s Mona Lisa, around 1503-19, the painting is done on canvas (the original is on panel), it has columns on the sides of the picture and the landscape is very simple. Blacker reported that the picture had come from a Somerset aristocratic collection. In 1962, the painting was bought by the UK-based art collector Henry Pulitzer, who exhibited it very briefly in Phoenix, Arizona, in a commercial gallery.

The puzzle now facing Leonardo specialists is whether the Isleworth Mona Lisa is indeed from the master’s studio or is a subsequent copy, possibly from the late 16th century. Although the Prado’s copy of the Mona Lisa was accepted earlier this year as from Leonardo’s studio (see related story above), this latest announcement is likely to be greeted with initial scepticism—so the key question will be if the scientific evidence stands up. The painting is to be unveiled by Anatoly Karpov, the chess grandmaster and a member of the Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation.

Listen to an interview with Martin Kemp discussing this portrait and the Leonardo Loonies here:

Radio New Zealand interviews Martin Kemp

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