'Earlier version' of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa unveiled
on 28/09/2012 00:00:00
"Historical evidence suggests that Leonardo da Vinci left unfinished an earlier portrait of Mona Lisa in which she is flanked by side columns," the foundation said in a statement.
The foundation had gathered a number of experts in Geneva to testify to the probability that the portrait, known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, had been painted but left unfinished by da Vinci about a decade before he completed its famous sister.
Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci, Italy, and a world-renowned expert on the artist and the Mona Lisa, whetted the appetites of the 100 journalists present for the occasion, describing the painting as "an important work of art".
He said the foundation's claim that the two paintings portray Lisa del Giocondo at two different moments of her life was "a fascinating possibility".
Joe Mullins, a forensic specialist trained at the FBI, described how he had "age-regressed" the original Mona Lisa to determine what she would have looked like 11 to 12 years earlier.
He described himself as a "digital plastic surgeon", giving the painting "a digital facelift and Botox".
Showing pictures to reporters, he pointed out: "Everything lined up perfectly. Based on my experience... the facts and the images speak for themselves.... This is Mona Lisa, two different images at two different times in her life."
The Isleworth Mona Lisa was bought in 2003 by a private consortium that remains anonymous, so it is unclear who would benefit from its unveiling after 40 years in a Swiss vault.
However, several experts said they suspected the Italian master had not painted an earlier version.
"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. The landscape is devoid of atmospheric subtlety," Oxford University art historian Martin Kemp said in a statement. "The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original," he added.
Several other experts also voiced scepticism about the "earlier version" claim.