Isleworth Mona Lisa

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Isleworth Mona Lisa
See adjacent text.
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]
Yearc. 1503–1516
SubjectLisa Gherardini
Dimensions84.5 cm × 64.5 cm (33.3 in × 25.4 in)
LocationPrivate collection, Switzerland
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa

The Isleworth Mona Lisa is an oil-on-canvas painting of the same subject as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. In 2015 and 2016, peer-reviewed academic publications concerning it confirmed its attribution to Leonardo da Vinci.[1][2]

In 1913 English connoisseur Hugh Blaker spotted and acquired the painting which had been hanging for over a century in a manor house in Somerset, having been bought in Italy as an original Leonardo. In a monograph published shortly thereafter, Blaker's stepfather, John R. Eyre, proposed that two versions of the Mona Lisa had been worked on by Leonardo; the "Isleworth" picture (named after the location of Blaker's studio in Isleworth, west London) being the first.[8][4][3]

The painting was subsequently bought by Henry F. Pulitzer, who argued that it was Leonardo's only real portrait of Lisa Gherardini.[5]. When Pulitzer died in 1979 his partner, Elizabeth Meyer, inherited the painting. When she died in 2008, the Isleworth Mona Lisa was sold to a private collection and is not currently on display to the public. Ownership of the painting is disputed as an anonymous "distinguished European family" has claimed that the painting's former owner had sold a 25% stake in the painting, but a lawyer stated that the claim was clearly without merit.[9]

The Isleworth Mona Lisa has been examined by many experts in recent years, and been filmed for a TV documentary.[10]


According to Leonardo's early biographer Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo had started to paint Mona Lisa in 1503, but "left it unfinished". However, a fully finished painting of a "certain Florentine lady" surfaced again in 1517, shortly before Leonardo's death and in his private possession. The latter painting almost certainly is the one that now hangs in the Louvre.[11] Based on this contradiction, supporters of the authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa claim it is the unfinished Mona Lisa, made at least partially by Leonardo, and the Louvre Mona Lisa a later version of it, made by Leonardo for his own use.[citation needed]

Also, according to Henry F. Pulitzer in his book Where is the Mona Lisa? (1960), Gian Paolo Lomazzo, an artist and writer, refers in his Trattato dell'arte della Pittura Scultura ed Architettura (1584), to "della Gioconda, e di Mona Lisa (the Gioconda, and the Mona Lisa)".[12] La Gioconda is sometimes used as an alternative title of the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre; the reference implies that these were, in fact, two separate paintings. Pulitzer reproduces the critical page from Lomazzo's tract in his own book.[5]


The Isleworth Mona Lisa is wider than the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, having columns on either side which also appear in some other versions. The Louvre painting merely has the projecting bases of columns on either side, suggesting that the picture was originally framed by columns but was trimmed. However, experts who examined the Mona Lisa in 2004–2005 stated that the original painting had not been trimmed.[13]

The figure of the Isleworth Mona Lisa closely resembles that of the Mona Lisa, being identically composed and lit. However, the face of the Isleworth Mona Lisa appears younger, leading to speculation that it is an earlier version by the artist. According to Pulitzer, multiple art experts agreed that the neck of the Isleworth Mona Lisa is inferior to the necks of other Leonardo subjects. Furthermore, the background in the Isleworth painting is considerably less detailed than the background in the Louvre painting. For these reasons, several people Pulitzer consulted believed that the hands and face of the portrait were done by Leonardo, but the rest may have been finished by another or others.


Raphael's drawing, based on the Mona Lisa

During the first part of the 20th century, a number of experts supported the attribution of the most significant sections of the Isleworth Mona Lisa to Leonardo da Vinci: Hugh Blaker,[3] Paul Konody,[4] John Eyre,[3] Commendatore Cecconi,[3] Dr. Arduino Colasanti,[3] Ludovico Spiridon,[3] Enrico San Martino di Valperga,[3] Adolfo Venturi,[3] A.C. Chappelow,[14] and Henry Pulitzer.[5]

The authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa is disputed by a minority of experts. Skeptics argue that as Henry F. Pulitzer himself owned the painting in question, a conflict of interest is present. His Where is the Mona Lisa? was published by the Pulitzer Press, his own publishing house. Pulitzer notes in the book's introduction that he made a number of sacrifices in order to acquire the painting, including the selling of "a house with all its contents".[15]

Pulitzer argues in his book that Leonardo's contemporary Raphael made a sketch of this painting, probably from memory, after seeing it in Leonardo's studio in 1504 (the sketch is reproduced in Pulitzer's book; the book says that this sketch is at the Louvre). The Raphael sketch includes the two Greek columns that are not found in the Louvre's Mona Lisa, but are found in the painting bought by Blaker. Pulitzer presents a few pages of art expert testimonials in his book; some of these experts seemed to believe that Leonardo was the painter, others felt the artist was somebody who worked in Leonardo's studio, and still others suggested that other artists may have done it. Supporters of the authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa include art collector John Eyre, who argued that the bust, face, and hands are autographed.[16]

Pulitzer also presents laboratory evidence (light to dark ratios across the canvas, X-rays, etc.) that his painting is a Leonardo. However, specific detail on the manner in which these studies were carried out, and by whom, is not provided. He writes: "I have no intention of cluttering up this book with too many technicalities and wish to make this chapter brief". No independent reports on the painting are cited in his text; he uses the pronoun "we" to refer to the team that conducted the research. As his own Pulitzer Press then published these results, there is a lack of outside corroboration for his claims. A documentary aired by PBS[17] gives the names of the persons doing the scientific studies.[18]

The painting disappeared from public gaze around 1970, locked in a Swiss bank vault. Pulitzer died in 1979, leaving the painting to his Swiss partner. On 27 September 2012, The Mona Lisa Foundation of Zurich unveiled the painting once more to the world's press.[19][20] A book published at the same time presented the Foundation's research and arguments for the painting's authenticity.[21] Professor Martin Kemp of Oxford University, though having not seen the painting,[6] immediately raised doubts about the status of the picture.[22]

Since then, a number of experts have examined and studied the work. Between 2012 and 2013 a number of additional examinations and tests were carried out and a summary was reported by Reuters on 13 February 2013.[6] Alfonso Rubino found that the work matched Leonardo's geometry and stated that it was by his hand.[6] In 2013, Professor Atila Soares examined the painting in detail and published a book where he confirmed its authenticity as a genuine Leonardo.[23]

In October 2013 Jean Pierre Isbouts published a book titled The Mona Lisa Myth[24] examining the history and events behind the Louvre and Isleworth paintings and confirmed the latter's attribution to Leonardo.[25] A companion film was released in March 2014.[10] In April 2014, Albert Sauteur examined the perspective used to execute the Isleworth Mona Lisa and the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and concluded that Leonardo painted both works.[26] In July 2014 "The Mona Lisa Mystery" premiered on the PBS television station's series Secrets of the Dead. This documentary investigated, at length, the authenticity of the Isleworth painting.[17]

In 2015, an academic publication by Professors Lorusso and Natali documented an exhaustive analysis of Mona Lisa paintings and copies, and concluded that both Mona Lisa and the Isleworth Mona Lisa were original works by Leonardo.[1] In 2016, in another academic publication, Professors Asmus, Parfenov and Elford published the results of scientific examinations that established to their satisfaction that the same artist painted the face of both the Mona Lisa and the Isleworth Mona Lisa.[2][7]

In 2017, Gérard Boudin de l'Arche published a comprehensive historical account and stated that Leonardo painted the Isleworth Mona Lisa before the Louvre Mona Lisa.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lorusso, Salvatore; Natali, Andrea (2015). "Mona Lisa: A comparative evaluation of the different versions and copies". Conservation Science. 15: 57–84. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Asmus, John F.; Parfenov, Vadim; Elford, Jessie (28 November 2016). "Seeing double: Leonardo's Mona Lisa twin". Optical and Quantum Electronics. 48 (12): 555. doi:10.1007/s11082-016-0799-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eyre, John (1926). The two Mona Lisas: Which was Giocondo's picture? Ten direct, distinct, and decisive data in favour of the Isleworth version and some recent Italian experts' opinions on it. London: J.M. Ouseley & Son.
  4. ^ a b c Konody, Paul G. (February 15, 1914). "Jump up". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d Pulitzer, Henry E. (1960). Where is the Mona Lisa?. London: The Pulitzer Press. ASIN B0027MR0A2.
  6. ^ a b c d "New proof said found for "original" Mona Lisa –". 13 February 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Boudin de l'Arche, Gerard (2017). A la recherche de Monna Lisa. Cannes, France: Edition de l'Omnibus. ISBN 9791095833017.
  8. ^ Grolier, ed. (1951). "Isleworth Mona Lisa". Encyclopedia Americana. 19.
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b The Mona Lisa Myth. IMDb. 2014.
  11. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1998). The Lives of the Artists. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-283410-2.
  12. ^ Lomazzo, Giovanni Paolo (January 2, 2010). Trattato Dell'arte Della Pittura Scultura Ed Architettura (in Italian) (Paperback reproduction of 1584 book ed.). Nabu Press. ISBN 978-1142236694.
  13. ^ Mohen, Jean-Pierre (2006). Mona Lisa: inside the Painting. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-8109-4315-5.
  14. ^ Chappelow, AC (July 1, 1956). "The Isleworth Mona Lisa". Apollo Magazine.
  15. ^ Mona Lisa Foundation (2012). Mona Lisa: Leonardo's Earlier Version. The Mona Lisa Foundation. pp. 272–. ISBN 978-3-033-03144-9. Retrieved 28 July 2013. ... 1962 Dr. Henry Pulitzer (Pulitzer Galleries, Kensington, London & Berne, Switzerland) acquires the painting by selling his Knightsbridge house with all contents, ... 1979 Pulitzer dies, and the painting is inherited by his partner, Elizabeth Meyer. ...
  16. ^ Monograph of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. London: Grevel. 1915.
  17. ^ a b "The Mona Lisa Mystery". Secrets of the Dead. PBS. July 2014.
  18. ^ "The Mona Lisa Mystery Transcript". Secrets of the Dead. PBS. July 2014.
  19. ^ "Second Mona Lisa Unveiled for First Time in 40 Years". ABC News. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  20. ^ ""Original Mona Lisa" given Geneva launch". Reuters. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  21. ^ Mona Lisa Foundation (2012). Mona Lisa: Leonardo's Earlier Version. Zurich Switzerland: The Mona Lisa Foundation. ISBN 9783033031449.
  22. ^ Unveiling of alternate 'Mona Lisa' raises questions by Ben Brumfield, CNN, 28 September 2012. Archived here.
  23. ^ Soares, Atila (2013). A Jovem Mona Lisa. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil: Multifoco. ISBN 9788582733882.
  24. ^ Edwards, Hilary (November 7, 2013). "New Book by Fielding Faculty Member Jean-Pierre Isbouts, DLitt, Shatters the Myths of the 'Mona Lisa'". Fielding Graduate University News.
  25. ^ Isbouts, Jean-Pierre; Heath-Brown, Christopher (2013). The Mona Lisa Myth. Santa Monica, California: Pantheon Press. ISBN 978-1492289494.
  26. ^ Sauteur, Albert (April 22, 2014). "Albert Sauteur réinvente la perspective". Migros Magazine. Vol. 17. pp. 14–17.


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