Experts Suggest Leonardo da Vinci Drew ‘Nude Mona Lisa’

After microscopic examinations revealed ‘left-handed charcoal marks’, the sketch is now thought to be by the Renaissance master  

Monna Vanna, c. 1515. Courtesy: Getty Images; Heritage Images; Fine Art Images

Monna Vanna, c. 1515. Courtesy: Getty Images; Heritage Images; Fine Art Images

Monna Vanna (c. 1515), frequently referred to as ‘The Nude Mona Lisa’, a preparatory sketch of a nude sitter that closely resembles Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa (c.1503-06) is now thought to be mostly Leonardo’s handiwork. 

After an analysis of the drawing was carried out by experts at the Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of France, located beneath the Louvre Museum, it is believed that the charcoal drawing, which was originally attributed to the painter’s studio, may actually be the work of the Renaissance master. Among other evidence, there are ‘left-handed charcoal marks pretty much everywhere,’ according to Mathieu Deldicque, a curator at the Musée Condé which owns the artwork. 

Deldicque expressed caution over firmly attributing the work: ‘The quality of the drawing, both to the naked eye and under imaging analysis reveals the work of an exceptional hand. But we cannot be absolutely certain that it is the work of Leonardo and we may never be.’

Microscopic examinations of the drawing show that it was carried out from the top left to the bottom right meaning that the left-handed artist executed most of the drawing himself, with some support from a right-handed assistant. Leonardo is widely thought to have been a left-handed painter. The Monna Vanna has been the subject of speculation since it was acquired in 1862 by the son of King Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Aumale. When it first was sent for analysis, Deldicque told the New York Times in 2017: ‘We are sure of nothing, and if Leonardo participated, it’s not for all the drawing, but for some parts of it.’

The months-long examination was undertaken using high-tech scientific equipment in advance of the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. The drawing will be shown at a special exhibition at Château de Chantilly later this year.  

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