Tests prove early ‘Mona Lisa’ is the real deal, new book claims

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A foundation says it will prove to the world that Leonardo Da Vinci painted an earlier version of the Mona Lisa – a claim doubted by at least one expert.

The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation, which has been working with the anonymous owners of the “Isleworth Mona Lisa” says that after 35 years of research, experts believe it predates the famed 16th-century masterpiece by some 11 or 12 years, based on regression tests, mathematical comparisons and historical and archival records.

“So far, not one scientific test has been able to disprove that the painting is by Leonardo,” said art historian Stanley Feldman, a foundation member and principal author of a foundation book Mona Lisa: Leonardo’s Earlier Version. “We have used methods that were not available to Leonardo 500 years ago.

“When we do a very elementary mathematical test, we have discovered that all of the elements of the two bodies – the two people, the two sitters – are in exactly the same place,” Mr Feldman said.

“It strikes us that in order for that to be so accurate, so meticulously exact, only the person who did one did the other.”

The Isleworth painting – likewise a portrait of a young woman with an enigmatic smile – is slightly larger, was painted on canvas and has brighter colours than the famed Louvre Museum masterpiece painted on wood. The posture, folded hand positions, faces, expressions and clothing are similar, while the landscape in the background is different.

The foundation says the painting turned up in the home of an English nobleman in the late 1800s – thus the connection to Isleworth, south-west London – and was shipped to the United States for safekeeping during the First World War. After the war it was analysed in Italy, and eventually stored in a Swiss bank vault.

However Martin Kemp, an Oxford University professor and Leonardo expert, said “the reliable primary evidence provides no basis for thinking that there was ‘an earlier’ portrait of Lisa del Giocondo” – referring to the subject of the painting known as the Mona Lisa in English.