Isleworth Mona Lisa: a younger, happier version, or a decent knockoff?
December 8, 2013 12:42 PM   Subscribe

There has long been various lines of speculation about Mona Lisa, including the existence of an earlier version of the painting. A painting purported to be the earlier version was revealed in 2012. The accuracy of the statements are supported by The Mona Lisa Foundation, who have set up an extensive website around the history of the Mona Lisa and other versions, and also prepared a 21 minute documentary with various professionals providing their knowledge on the topic.

Isleworth Mona Lisa on Wikipedia:
Shortly before World War I, English art collector Hugh Blaker discovered the painting in the home of a Somerset nobleman in whose family it had been for nearly 100 years. This discovery led to the conjecture that Leonardo painted two portraits of Lisa del Giocondo: the famous one in The Louvre, and the one discovered by Blaker, who bought the painting and took it to his studio in Isleworth, London, from which it takes its name.
The "earlier" portrait is associated with Leonardo's biographer, Giorgio Vasari, who noted that the painting lingered, unfinished (PDF). Then a fully finished painting of a "certain Florentine lady" surfaced again in 1517, which everyone recognizes as the Mona Lisa.

Despite the claims of the Isleworth Mona Lisa being supported by a variety of experts, Oxford University professor Martin Kemp, a world-recognised authority on Da Vinci, is one of people still not convinced, even after radio carbon dating apparently refuted the claims of the image being a replica made after the original.

If you'd like to compare the Isleworth Mona Lisa versus the painting in the Louvre, The Mona Lisa Foundation has a write-up, and The Washington Post has an interactive tool that lets you compare the images with a slider to display more of either image, or you could download high quality versions of the images and compare them yourself: 4193 × 5480 Isleworth Mona Lisa (also available on Wikipedia, but the largest size is 1,210 × 1,600 pixels) | Mona Lisa at the Louvre (up to 7,479 × 11,146 pixels)
posted by filthy light thief (24 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nah, that is a romanticist painting - everything about it is "modern" in the sense that it represents post-entlightment values and conceptions of beauty. The painter probably felt he improved on Leonardos work.
posted by mumimor at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're so like the lady with the mystic smile...
posted by trip and a half at 1:03 PM on December 8, 2013


Yeah, I was just wondering where the Nat King Cole and/or clip from The Freshman was.
posted by weston at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few bonus links: large image version of the restored Prado Mona Lisa, and a large image of the painting pre-restoration, with the background blacked out (as linked in the prior Prado Mona Lisa thread).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait until you see the even earlier version where she's field stripping an AK-47.
posted by The Whelk at 1:24 PM on December 8, 2013


(insert minority opinion that the reason the painting has such dark, yellow-y sfumato is because the thing hasn't been properly cleaned grumble grumble)
posted by The Whelk at 1:27 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


(insert minority opinion that the reason the painting has such dark, yellow-y sfumato is because the thing hasn't been properly cleaned grumble grumble)

Or badly, "Restored" again and again, leading to a too-thick layer of varnish.

Or da Vinci was, "Experimenting" with other such type of varnish and it all went horribly, horribly wrong aka The Last Supper.

Or all three, probably. I can't see how an oil painting, worked on over many years, in different countries, which crossed the Alps rolled up and carried over on like a donkey could fared so well, to be honest. The other paintings he's done that are on display at the Louvre seem to have fared a little better.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:33 PM on December 8, 2013


But the real question is does it have "This is a fake" written on the canvas?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay so where are the other five copies?

"The images produced by infrared reflectography and X-ray are not at all characteristic (of) what lies below Leonardo's autograph paintings,"

Well at least he noticed the big FAKE written in 20th Century magic marker pigment underneath the gesso.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is so clearly photoshopped...
posted by Omnomnom at 2:23 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone knows Francis Bacon is responsible for Leonardo's masterworks
posted by infinitewindow at 3:00 PM on December 8, 2013


It's a compelling story. Leonardo paints a portrait of the young Lisa Gherardini, and something about that early painting or her motivates him to bring Lisa back ten years later to pose for another one, the Mona Lisa that is universally acknowledged to be his masterwork. And he must have known the second portrait would be important, because someone in the studio was copying him step by step, producing the Prado.

But is it just a story? Professor Martin Kemp makes a really good point in that radiocarbon dating link when he says that no Italian painters in 1410-1455 used canvas. If da Vinci did every other painting on wood, and this is the single example of canvas, then Occam's razor would suggest that this is not a da Vinci.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:00 PM on December 8, 2013


I'll think of this next time I play Chrononauts.
posted by BrashTech at 3:03 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's obvious that one painting is a copy of the other, but the Isleworth Mona Lisa has fundamental errors and is simply nowhere near as good. Look at the hair lying over her shoulder - how does that work? Compare the hands; the Isleworth model has lumps of dough at the end of her wrists. Is it really likely that Leonardo would copy an early, inferior work of his with such fidelity, repairing his errors with such subtlety? Surely the copying must have gone the other way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2013


So, I want to push back here. I spent some time looking through all of this over the past weeks, and the Mona Lisa Foundation is clearly set up with the specific agenda of convincing people that this painting is by Leonardo, probably to benefit the ownership. There is nothing that suggests this is actually Leonardo's work vs a copy of an early Gioconda by someone in his studio (or outside). There is alot of hand-waving around some pretty clear signs this is not a Leonardo. It's reasonably fun to look at the Post site and others, but in the end I think (as a non expert) that this is mostly intended to drum up revenue that would not come from "cool copy of an early Mona Lisa by a younger and more conventional student of Leonardo."
posted by Vcholerae at 3:15 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that so many details are the same between two portraits supposedly painted ten years apart - the same hair ribbon, same number of wrinkles on her sleeves, and so on - but other things like the background are quite different.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:35 PM on December 8, 2013


this is mostly intended to drum up revenue that would not come from "cool copy of an early Mona Lisa by a younger and more conventional student of Leonardo."


I'm just getting to the Basil Valentine / Rektall Brown parts of The Recognitions, so this rings pretty true for me right now.
posted by Dr. Zachary Smith at 3:52 PM on December 8, 2013


There's a classic 1950s SF story where the Mona Lisa turns out to be a missing frame from a naughty zoetrope where Lisa opens her blouse and reveals her accoutrements. It turns out Da Vinci invented motion pictures and soft-core pr0n as well as being a great painter. (Fritz Leiber? Sprague de Camp?)

This would indeed explain the two almost identical paintings.
posted by monotreme at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2013


Well, she does have an excellent behind.
posted by The Whelk at 4:59 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, the earlier one was actually Lisa's selfie.
posted by dreamling at 8:37 PM on December 8, 2013


Elle a chaud au cul, Whelk.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a classic 1950s SF story where the Mona Lisa turns out to be a missing frame from a naughty zoetrope [..] (Fritz Leiber? Sprague de Camp?)

I believe that was "The Gioconda Caper" (1976) by Bob Shaw.
posted by rochrobbb at 9:15 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks rochrobbb! I've been looking for that for a while.
posted by monotreme at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2013


Here's the ISFDb entry for The Gioconda Caper, listing 5 sources for the story (or 8, if you count each version of Cosmic Kaleidoscope).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 AM on December 13, 2013


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