One of the most fascinating mysteries puzzling art scholars today is did da Vinci draw the Mona Lisa nude? Master Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was an engineer, scientist and inventor who lived from 1452 to 1519. Many agree his Mona Lisa model was named Lisa Gherardini, and her husband was a wealthy merchant.
The Mona Lisa sketches that are making headlines feature the subject topless from the waist up. The charcoal drawing depicts a woman who is posed similarly to the Mona Lisa. However, her body is in a more sideways position, and her head is angled further over her shoulder.
Scholars and art historians are now trying to determine whether the Mona Lisa nude model featured in the drawing was in fact created by da Vinci himself or by someone else. This isn’t the only famous painting conspiracy theory that’s made headlines. Check out several others here. And if you’re a fan of Renaissance artists, take a look at this list.
The Charcoal Drawing Has Been Linked To The Renaissance Master’s Studio Since The 20th Century
Scholars are trying to determine whether a charcoal drawing known as The Monna Vanna, a.k.a. “nude Mona Lisa,” was created by da Vinci. Historians have long identified the drawing as being affiliated with the artist’s studio and as the work of one of his students, but da Vinci himself may have been responsible for the portrait. The drawing depicts a woman who is nude from the waist up.
A Groundbreaking Discovery
If, indeed, the Monna Vanna is attributed to the Renaissance master, the revelation would be “groundbreaking.” According to Musée Condé curator Mathieu Deldicque, the discovery would give insight into da Vinci as well as the era in which he created his masterpiece.
Deldicque commented to artnet News:
“Why [did he paint] a nude Mona Lisa or a nude female? Is it erotic? Is it a portrait, a portrait of divinity? Is it an allegory of fertility, or love? Or beauty or vanity? There are a lot of possible meanings and a lot of influences and [each has] lots of meanings and connotations.”
Scholars Hope To Identify The Artist Of The Drawing In Advance Of The 500-Year Anniversary Of Da Vinci’s Death
The Musée Condé, located in the palace of Chantilly just north of Paris, has possessed the drawing since 1862 ever since the son of France’s last king Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Aumale, purchased it for the museum. In 2019, there will be an exhibition at the museum to mark da Vinci’s death 500 years ago, and art experts aim to prove who drew it before the event takes place.
The Similarities Between The Two Pieces Of Art Work Are Striking
The dimensions of the Monna Vanna are 28 inches by 21 inches. The black and white drawing shares several similarities with Da Vinci’s masterpiece. It contains the same enigmatic half smile and angular chin. The women in both artworks have their hands folded in a similar fashion. According to Musée Condé curator Mathieu Deldicque, the drawing was created around the same time as the Mona Lisa. In addition, the paper used for the Monna Vanna is from the same area of northern Italy. The drawing was executed using a technique known as sfumato, involving subtle gradation, which da Vinci often incorporated in his art work.
The Drawing Was Made During da Vinci’s Lifetime
Did da Vinci’s Student Do The Drawing?
One of da Vinci’s pupils, Andrea Salai, was previously credited with creating the drawing. Some scholars think the Monna Vanna was in fact a copy of an original drawing that da Vinci produced but is now missing. Da Vinci and Salai were close. The young man came to live with the artist when he was just 10 years old and stayed with him for nearly 30 years. When da Vinci died, he left part of his vineyard to Salai.
New Technology Should Offer Some Clues
A team of art experts are using new technology to examine the drawing in order to get a clearer picture of its origin. They are also taking a closer look at its back story to determine who actually drew it. For example, the drawing may have been created by a pupil and been tinkered with by da Vinci. Scholars plan on spending several weeks examining the drawing before it is returned to the museum from which it was borrowed.
There’s Proof That Part Of The Drawing Was Made By Someone Other Than da Vinci
There is some evidence that one of da Vinci’s students or assistants worked on a section of the drawing. Da Vinci was left handed, and the hatchings surrounding the face of the Monna Vanna were made by an artist who was right handed, according to researchers.
Musée Condé curator Mathieu Deldicque told artnet News:
“We’re just wondering if the hand of Leonardo da Vinci is present in the drawing. It could be, but we have no clear proof of that yet.”
He added that there may be no conclusive evidence one way or the other: “Maybe the mystery will remain.”
The Monna Vanna Is Not The Only Nude Mona Lisa Out There
Many agree that da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa around 1503. The Renaissance master was commissioned by merchant Francesco del Giocondo from Florence to paint the portrait of his wife, Lisa Gherardini. There are nearly two dozen paintings in museums around the globe that feature depictions of a nude Mona Lisa. For example, the well-known Donna Nuda is displayed in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Hermitage.
Did Da Vinci Paint More Than One Mona Lisa?
In 2012, the Mona Lisa Foundation claimed da Vinci produced a second painting of the famed portrait in which the subject was thinner and younger. The foundation noted it spent 35 years authenticating the painting, but acquiesced that the painting was not complete and was not done entirely by da Vinci himself.
The group was challenged by Oxford art history professor Martin Kemp, who claimed the painting in question, known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, was actually a forgery. He pointed out:
“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. The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original.”