Discovery Of Lost Leonardo Painting Causes Storm In Art World

Tue, 10/08/2013 - 11:30
isabella d'este

The discovery of a Leonardo da Vinci portrait of Renaissance noblewoman Isabella d’Este, Marchesa of Mantua, in a Swiss bank vault has stunned art experts – some of whom do not believe it is genuine. The painting was discovered in a private collection of 400 works owned by an Italian family who have asked to remain anonymous. The portrait had been lost for 500 years, leading some art historians to even doubt its existence. The mystery portrait appears to be a painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo in Mantua, Lombardy c. 1499, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. D’Este asked the artist to then create a painting and he agreed. However, the artistic genius then began work on the ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Battle of Anghiari’. Many art historians assumed that either Leonard had no time to create the portrait of D’Este or he lost interest in doing so. Scientific tests reveal that the pigment and primer used on the found canvas is the same as that used by Leonardo. Carbon tests show that it is 95% probable that the oil painting was created between 1460 and 1650. D’Este and Leonardo met again in Rome in 1514. Professor emeritus of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, Carlo Pedretti, has studied the painting for three and a half years. He claims that the face in the portrait is Da Vinci’s handiwork but that other elements may be the work of one of the artist’s pupils. Pedretti told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera : “There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo....” However, other experts have cast doubt on the authenticity of the painting, suggesting that it is by one of the artist’s many contemporary imitators because it was painted on canvas – Leonardo preferred to use wooden boards. Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of history of art at the University of Oxford’s Trinity College, told British newspaper ‘The Daily Telegraph’: “Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line. Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.” The discovery has caused a storm in the art world – and the Italian press. Italian daily ‘Il Fatto Quotidiano’ has gone so far as to say that the attribution to Leonardo is a hoax, just one of the latest regarding recently discovered paintings declared to be the work of Italy’s top artists. ‘Il Fatto Quotidiano’ says its readers only need look at the images reproduced of the painting to understand it is what the paper describes as an “ugly” copy. If Leonardo did paint the portrait, it would be worth tens of millions of dollars.