Giacobbe Giusti, Isleworth Mona Lisa

Giacobbe Giusti, Isleworth Mona Lisa

 


The Isleworth Mona Lisa is a painting of the same subject as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Though insufficiently examined, the painting is claimed by some to be partly an original work of Leonardo dating from the early 16th century.[1]

Background

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.[2][3]

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 same that now hangs in the Louvre.[4] Based on this contradiction, supporters of the authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa[who?] 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 art historian, 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)”.[5] 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.[6]

Description

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.[7]

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.

Authenticity

Raphael’s drawing, based on the Mona Lisa
The authenticity of the Isleworth Mona Lisa is widely disputed in the art community. Sceptics 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, a publisher he owned. 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”.[8]

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 found not 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.[9]

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[10] gives the names of the persons doing the scientific studies.[11]

Hidden in a Swiss bank vault for 40 years, this version of the Mona Lisa was unveiled to the public on 27 September 2012,[12] but Professor Martin Kemp of Oxford University immediately raised doubts about the painting’s status.[13]

In October 2013, Jean Pierre Isbouts published a book titled The Mona Lisa Myth[14] examining the history and events behind the Louvre and Isleworth paintings. A companion film was released in March 2014.[15] 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.[10]

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Raphael’s drawing, based on the Mona Lisa

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Giacobbe Giusti, Leonardo da Vinci

Giacobbe Giusti, Leonardo da Vinci

Portrait of a Young Fiancée

A young woman in profile, looking to the left.

Portrait of a Young Fiancée

Artist controversially attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
Year 1495-6[note 1]
Type Trois crayons (black, red and white chalk), heightened with pen and ink on vellum, laid on oak panel
Subject Bianca Sforza[note 2]
Dimensions 33 cm × 23.9 cm (13 in × 9.4 in)
Condition Restored
Owner Private collection

 

Portrait of a Young Fiancée, also called La Bella Principessa (English: “The Beautiful Princess”), is a portrait in coloured chalks and ink, on vellum, of a young lady in fashionable costume and hairstyle of a Milanese of the 1490s.[1] Sold at auction in 1998 as an early 19th-century German work, some experts have since attributed it to Leonardo da Vinci. In 2010 one of those experts, Martin Kemp, made it the subject of his book La Bella Principessa. The Profile Portrait of a Milanese Woman – The Story of the New Masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.[2] Evidence discovered in 2011 accounting for its provenance has strengthened the case for it being by Leonardo.[3]

The attribution to Leonardo da Vinci has been disputed.[4] Most of those who disagree with the attribution to Leonardo believe the portrait is by an early 19th-century German artist imitating the style of the Italian Renaissance, although recent radiocarbon dating tests show a much earlier date for the vellum. The current owner purchased the portrait in 2007.

Description

The portrait is a mixed media drawing in pen and brown ink and bodycolour, over red, black and white chalk, on vellum, 33 by 23.9 centimetres (10 by 9 in)[5] which has been laid down on an oak board.[2] There are three stitch holes in the left-hand margin of the vellum, indicating that the leaf was once in a bound volume.[2] It represents a girl in her early teens, depicted in profile, the usual way in which Italian artists of the 15th century created enduring portraits. The girl’s dress and hairstyle indicate that she was a member of the court of Milan, during the 1490s.[1] If it is a Renaissance work, it would have been executed in the 1490s.[1]

Provenance

If the drawing is originally a Leonardo illustration for the present-day Warsaw copy of the Sforziad, its history is the same as that of the book until the drawing was cut out from the volume.[6] The book is known to have been rebound at the turn of the 18 and 19th century.[7][8]

The modern provenance of the drawing is known only from 1955 and is documented only from 1998.[9] According to a lawsuit brought by Jeanne Marchig against Christie’s after the drawing’s re-attribution to Leonardo, the drawing belonged to her husband Giannino Marchig, an art restorer, when they married in 1955. Jeanne Marchig became the owner of the drawing in 1983, following Mr Marchig’s death.[10]

The work was included in a sale at Christie’s in New York on January 1, 1998, catalogued as Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress, and described as “German School, early 19th Century”.[9] The seller was Jeanne Marchig.[2] It was sold to a New York art dealer for $21,850[2] (including buyer’s premium).[9] who sold it on for a similar amount in 2007.[4]

Lumière Technology in Paris performed a multi-spectral digital scan of the work,[11] and in 2009 the spectral images were analysed by Peter Paul Biro, a forensic art examiner who discovered a fingerprint which he said was “highly comparable” to a fingerprint on Leonardo’s unfinished St. Jerome in the Wilderness.[4][12]

The drawing was shown in an exhibition called And there was Light in Eriksberg, Gothenburg in Sweden,[13] and was estimated by various newspaper reports to be worth more than $160 million.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

Reflecting the subject of an Italian woman of high nobility, Kemp named the portrait La Bella Principessa, although Sforza ladies were not princesses.[1]

The drawing is currently being shown at Urbino, Salone del Trono Palazzo Ducale from December 6, 2014 through January 18, 2015 and will be shown in Milan from April 23, 2015, through October 31, 2015. The showings are being sponsored by the publisher Scripta Maneant, Municipality of Urbino and the Superintendence for the Historical Patrimony, Artistic and Etnantropological Heritage of Marche.[citation needed]

Attribution to Leonardo

A portrait by Alessandro Araldi showing a similar hairstyle

Detail of the upper left corner, revealing a fingerprint which has been suggested as being similar to one of Leonardo’s.

A page of La Sforziada from the National Library of Poland (Biblioteka Narodowa) in Warsaw
The first study of the drawing was published by Cristina Geddo.[20] Geddo attributes this work to Leonardo based not only on stylistic considerations, extremely high quality and left-handed hatching, but also on the evidence of the combination of black, white and red chalks (the trois crayons technique). Leonardo was the first artist in Italy to use pastels, a drawing technique he had learned from the French artist Jean Perréal whom he met in Milan at the end of the fifteenth century. Leonardo acknowledges his debt to Perréal in the Codex Atlanticus. Geddo also points out that the “coazzone” of the sitter’s hairstyle was fashionable during the same period.

Expert opinions

A number of Leonardo experts and art historians have concurred with the attribution to Leonardo, including:
Martin Kemp, Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at the University of Oxford[1]
Carlo Pedretti, professor emeritus of art history and Armand Hammer Chair in Leonardo Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles[21]
Nicholas Turner, former curator at the British Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum[5]
Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci in Vinci, Italy [22]
Cristina Geddo, an expert on Milanese Leonardesques and Giampietrino,[23]
Justin Kirkus, Boston University specialist in Italian Renaissance
Mina Gregori, professor emerita at the University of Florence.[4][23][24]
Edward Wright, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of South Florida, specialist in Italian Renaissance iconography[citation needed]

Analysis

In 2010, after a two-year study of the picture, Kemp published his findings and conclusions in a book, La Bella Principessa. The Profile Portrait of a Milanese Woman.[1] Kemp describes the work as “a portrait of a young lady on the cusp of maturity [which] shows her with the fashionable costume and hairstyle of a Milanese court lady in the 1490s”. By process of elimination involving the inner group of young Sforza women, Kemp concluded that she is probably Bianca Sforza, the illegitimate (but later legitimized) daughter of Ludovico Sforza (“Il Moro”), duke of Milan. In 1496, when Bianca was no more than 13, she was married to Galeazzo Sanseverino, captain of the duke’s Milanese forces. Galeazzo was a patron of Leonardo. Bianca was dead within months of her marriage, having suffered from a stomach complaint (possibly an ectopic pregnancy). Kemp pointed out that Milanese ladies were often the dedicatees of volumes of poetry on vellum, and that such a portrait of a “beloved lady” would have made a suitable title page or main illustration for a set of verses produced on the occasion of her marriage or death.[1]

The physical and scientific evidence from multispectral analysis and study of the painting, as described by Kemp,[1] may be summarized as follows:
The technique of the portrait is black, red and white chalks (trois crayons, a French medium), with pen and ink.
The drawing and hatching was carried out entirely by a left-handed artist, as Leonardo is known to have been.
There are significant pentimenti throughout.
The portrait is characterized by particularly subtle details, such as the relief of the ear hinted at below the hair, and the amber of the sitter’s iris.
There are strong stylistic parallels with the Windsor silverpoint drawing of A Woman in Profile, which, like other head studies by Leonardo, features comparable delicate pentimenti to the profile.
The members of the Sforza family were always portrayed in profile, whereas Ludovico’s mistresses were not.
The proportions of the head and face reflect the rules that Leonardo articulated in his notebooks.
The interlace or knotwork ornament in the costume and caul corresponds to patterns that Leonardo explored in other works and in the logo designs for his Academy.
The portrait was executed on vellum—unknown in the surviving work of Leonardo—though we know from his writings that he was interested in the French technique of dry colouring on parchment (vellum). He specifically noted that he should ask the French artist, Jean Perréal, who was in Milan in 1494 and perhaps on other occasions, about the method of colouring in dry chalks.
The format of the vellum support is that of a √2 rectangle, a format used for several of his portraits.
The vellum sheet was cut from a codex, probably a volume of poetry of the kind presented to mark major events in the Sforza women’s lives.
The vellum bears a fingerprint near the upper left edge, which features a distinctive “island” ridge and closely matches a fingerprint in the unfinished St Jerome by Leonardo. It also includes a palmprint in the chalk pigment on the neck of the sitter, which is characteristic of Leonardo’s technique.
The green of the sitter’s costume was obtained with a simple diffusion of black chalk applied on top of the yellowish tone of the vellum support.
The nuances of the flesh tints were also achieved by exploiting the tone of the vellum and allowing it to show through the transparent media.
There are noteworthy similarities between this work and the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, including the handling of the eyes, the modelling of flesh tones using the palm of the hand, the intricacy of the patterns of the knotwork ornament and the treatment of the contours.
The now somewhat pale original hatching in pen and ink was retouched in ink in a later restoration, which is far less fluid, precise and rhythmic.
There have been some re-touchings over the years, most extensively in the costume and headdress, but the restoration has not affected the expression and physiognomy of the face to a significant degree, and has not seriously affected the overall impact of the portrait.[1]

Warsaw edition of the Sforziada

In 2011, Kemp and Pascal Cotte reported that there was evidence that the drawing had once been part of a copy in the National Library of Poland in Warsaw of the Sforziada.[25] This is a printed book with hand-illuminated additions containing a long propagandistic poem in praise of Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan and patron of Leonardo da Vinci, and recounting the career of Ludovico Sforza’s father Francesco and his family. The Warsaw copy, printed on vellum with added illumination, was given to Galeazzo Sanseverino, a military commander under Ludovico Sforza, on his marriage to Bianca Sforza in 1496.[3] Kemp and Cotte identified a sheet in this volume from which they believe the drawing was cut. The cut edge of the sheet itself is concealed by the binding, but Kemp and Cotte say that, although “the dimensions and precise locations of the holes in the portrait cannot be obtained with precision”, the three holes on the left-hand side of the drawing can be aligned with three of the five stitch holes in the sheets in the book.[2][26]

The association with the Sforziada suggests that the drawing is a portrait of Bianca Sforza, who was the daughter of Ludovico Sforza and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis. At the time of the portrait she was around thirteen years old. Leonardo painted three other portraits associated with the family or court of Ludovico Sforza.

Disagreement with attribution to Leonardo

The attribution to Leonardo has been challenged by a number of scholars;[4][24][27] however, much of the criticism predates the suggestion of its origin in the copy of the Sforziada now in Warsaw. Many of the theories of alternative authorship which have been put forward by sceptics, as well as the identification provided by Christie’s auction house, are incompatible with the picture originating from this source.[citation needed]

Among the reasons for doubting its authorship are the lack of provenance prior to the 20th century – unusual given Leonardo’s renown dating from his own lifetime, as well as the fame of the purported subject’s family[27] – and the fact that it was on vellum. Leonardo did not use vellum for any of his 4,000 surviving drawings,[27] and old sheets of it are easily acquired by forgers.[4] Leonardo scholar Pietro C. Marani discounts the significance of the drawing being made by a left-handed artist, noting that imitators of Leonardo’s work have emulated this characteristic in the past.[27] Marani is also troubled by use of vellum, “monotonous” detail, use of colored pigments in specific areas, firmness of touch and lack of craquelure.[27] A museum director who wished to remain anonymous believes the drawing is “a screaming 20th-century fake”, and finds the damages and repair to the drawing suspicious.[27] The work was not requested for inclusion in the 2011–12 exhibition at the National Gallery in London, which specifically covered Leonardo’s period in Milan; Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, said simply “We have not asked to borrow it.”[27]

Drawing of a woman by Leonardo. A stylistic similarity has been noted between this drawing and the Young Fiancée.[22]

Drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld which has been suggested as depicting the same female model

Klaus Albrecht Schröder, director of the Albertina, Vienna, said “No one is convinced it is a Leonardo,” and David Ekserdjian, a scholar of 16th-century Italian drawings, wrote that he suspects the work is a “counterfeit”.[4] Neither Carmen Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the primary scholars of Leonardo’s drawings, nor Everett Fahy, her colleague at the Metropolitan, accepts the attribution to Leonardo.[4][27]

Several forensic experts on fingerprints have discounted Biro’s conclusions, finding the partial fingerprint taken from the drawing too poorly detailed to offer conclusive evidence.[4] Biro’s description of the print as being “highly comparable” to a known fingerprint of Leonardo’s has similarly been discounted by fingerprint examiners as being too vague an assessment to establish authorship.[4] When asked if he may have been mistaken to suggest that the fingerprint was Leonardo’s, Biro answered “It’s possible. Yes.”[4]

Noting the lack of mention of dissenting opinion in Kemp’s publication, Richard Dorment wrote in the Telegraph: “Although purporting to be a work of scholarship, his book has none of the balanced analysis you would expect from such an acclaimed historian. For La Bella Principessa, as he called the girl in the study, is not art history – it is advocacy.”[27]

Fred R. Kline, an independent art historian known for discoveries of lost art by the Nazarene Brotherhood,[28] a group of German painters working in Rome during the early 19th century who revived the styles and subjects of the Italian Renaissance,[28] proposed one of the Nazarenes, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794–1872), as the creator of the drawing.[29] Kline suggests that a drawing on vellum by Schnorr, Half-nude Female, in the collection of the Kunsthalle Mannheim in Germany,[30] as well as two other drawings on vellum by the same artist, may be related. Kline suggests that La Bella Principessa depicts the same model who appears in the Mannheim drawing, but an idealized version of her in the manner of a Renaissance engagement portrait.

Comparative material-testing of the vellum supports of the Mannheim Schnorr and “La Bella Principessa” were anticipated to occur in the New York federal court lawsuit Marchig v. Christie’s, brought in May 2010 by the original owner of “La Bella Principessa”, who accused Christie’s of breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation and other damages. However, the court dismissed the suit on the ground that the claims were brought years too late, and thus the merits of the suit were never addressed. The district court decision was upheld on appeal.[31]

Disagreements with the attribution to Leonardo were made before the discovery of the missing page in the Warsaw Sforziada book. No alternative attribution has been accepted by Kemp or his research group. No comparative scientific analysis has been made of the vellum supports in question: the Warsaw Sforziada book, the Mannheim Schnorr (an alternate attribution), and “La Bella Principessa”. Independent analysis of the vellum could possibly provide the conclusive evidence that may support or disqualify Leonardo’s or Schnorr’s authorship.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_a_Young_Fianc%C3%A9e

http://www.giacobbegiusti.com