Posted by: Valentino Radman | October 2, 2012

Younger Mona Lisa ?

The unveiling of Isleworth Mona Lisa has been all the fuss in art world past couple of days. It is a supposed second, earlier version of the Giaconda in the Louvre.
This year is particularly fruitful one when it comes to discovering Mona Lisa copies and versions. In February, conservators at the Prado in Madrid announced that the painting assumed to be a replica of the Mona Lisa, had actually been painted at the same time as the original one – by one of his students working alongside the master.
Isleworth Mona Lisa was presented in Geneva by the Swiss-based Mona Lisa Foundation. The foundation said it is basing its claim on mathematical analysis, research and other methods. They put forward a 300 page publication documenting their investigation and suggesting that the painting was indeed painted by Leonardo, and is the first portrait of the Italian noblewoman, portraying her at a younger age. It said the painting predates the Louvre Mona Lisa by about 11 years.
Other art experts, however, are highly sceptical and contend the work is more likely to be a later copy.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa, once belonged to a Jane Blaker, who lived with the art-collecting Davies sisters in Powys. Gwendoline and Margaret Davies amassed one of the largest art collections in the UK. Under the guidance of their advisors, the sisters initially bought paintings by the likes of Turner, Corot and Millet but were encouraged to buy the works of Carrière, Monet and Rodin.

The painting had hung for a century in their manor house in the west of England unnoticed. It was finally “discovered” and bought by Ms Blaker’s brother Hugh in 1913. Blaker took it to his home in a London suburb, where it was dubbed “the Isleworth Mona Lisa”. After Blaker’s death in 1936, the painting passed to his sister Jane who lived at Gregynog as the Davies sisters’ companion. Following her death in 1947, it was sold in London to the American collector, Henry Pulitzer, who wrote a book about the painting. He in turn left it to his girlfriend. On her death, it was bought by a Swiss consortium of unnamed individuals who have kept it in a Swiss bank vault for 40 years.

The woman depicted in the painting closely resembles the figure in original version, but there are significant differences between the works, such as the size (it is larger than the Louvre Mona lisa), landscape in the background and the fact it was done on canvas (the original was painted on wood).

Having had the luck to see several Leonardo’s oils, incl. Louvre Mona Lisa I would say that this Isleworth version lacks the technical refinement characteristic for Leonardo’s works. Background is rather amateurishly painted. Leonardo would never do all those boring parallel diagonals. They are not only unimaginative, but incomparable with any of his earlier or later landscape works, as well. If one compares this background with the original painting or any of the versions of The Virgin of the Rocks, this becomes crystal clear. La Gioconda’s right hand is perhaps the most beautifully painted hand in history of art. In Isleworth version her hands lack not only knuckles, but other anatomical nuances and subtleties, as well. Besides, it appears somewhat flat.  The face is pretty, but has some neoclassical traits. In my humble opinion, this is not done by Leonardo. It is a much later copy, perhaps by some of his neoclassical admirers.



  1. Thank you for sharing this. I wanted to write a post about the Prado’s student copy of the Mona Lisa, as I think the landscape in the Prado’s copy is extraordinary.

    I had not heard of the Isleworth Mona Lisa until today, and after finding your site, reading up on it and reviewing the images I have to agree with you that there is something distinctly off about the alleged earlier copy. For me, I can clearly see that the head of the figure in the Isleworth Mona Lisa is sticking too far forward from the neck to be a Leonardo Da Vinci. It just doesn’t look like his hand made it. I also agree that this is especially apparent in the background of the this painting which is poorly executed.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this. Quite interesting! I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.


  2. I also agree with your view of the Isleworth Mona Lisa. This is not very Leonardesque. However, I am very impressed with another one of the period copies, called “The Italian Copy” but, have not heard anything about it from the mainstream media. The face is also of a younger version. The background is the same as Prado and the Louvre.

    Please tell me your thoughts and opinions on this painting. It is extrodinary.
    Would love to hear some feedback about it.

    Copy of "Gioconda (Mona Lisa)" after Leonardo da Vinci. Copy of XVI or XVII century


  3. Derrilynee,

    that is an excellent copy of Mona Lisa.
    The best one I have seen, actually.
    What intrigues me most (beside the columns) is the fact that it lacks eyebrows, just like the original. Pascal Cotte found evidence of the painted eyebrows on Louvre’s Mona Lisa, which means that either Leonardo used some fugitive color in that area (that is not unlikely at all)…or the restorers at the beginning of 19th century were too zealous. I mean, in 1809 cleaning, the restorers did use an unknown substance which proved to be rather aggressive. They removed not only darkened varnish, but some of the uppermost portion of the paint layer, as well, resulting in a washed-out appearance to Mona Lisa’s face. All this means that the linked copy might be done after that restoration, not just in 16th or 17th century as the title suggests.

  4. Yes! I agree! this is the best copy I’ve seen also. This painting is also mentioned and seen in Apollomagazine online (Sept 2006) along with the Reynolds Mona Lisa, Walters Mona Lisa, and many others.

    It amazes me that it has not gotten attention, but, even more astounding – the exactly location and owner remains unknown. So many secrets seem to surrounds all to do with Mona Lisa!

    Most experts agree that the Mona Lisa of the Louvre is not the original as assumed, but is actually a later copy, because they say the original has the 2 columns. I can’t help but wonder with this Italian copy, if I am actually looking at the true orignal!! – Too bad the color is so very faded.

    Corncerning the eyebrows and lashes, I’ve read that it was popular for Renaissance ladies to remove their brows and lashes. Seems painful! It was even in fashion in the 1440’s for ladies to plucked their hairline to make their foreheads look longer:

    If you like, please see a re-colored photomanipulation I have made of the Italian version. – Even with the low resolution of the photo – you can still see that the original painting was masterfully rendered.

    Please, tell me your thoughts?

  5. It is hard to say anything definitive looking at low quality jpgs alone. I can only reiterate that it does look as work of first rate painter.

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