In 1921, the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa‘ was shown to some of the greatest Italian Leonardo experts of the time. Here are some of the comments that they made:
Prof. Commendatore Lorenzo Cecconi, Curator of the Academy of Santa Luca. Sent by the Italian Government to the Indian Government at the request of the British Foreign Office, to assist in the restoration of the Ajanta Caves. Discovered Greek frescos from the time of Alexander the Great. Subsequently commissioned by the Italian Government to examine the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’ after its 1913 recovery from the theft, and therefore knew it intimately. Then in 1922, after viewing the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’, he declared: “For me, this is an original of Leonardo: the ‘morbidezza’, the condition of the ‘crepatura’ are unique and exactly equivalent to that of the Louvre example … I have been able to observe that the technique of the picture resembles that of the picture representing the same subject existing in Paris … in some details it differs from that of the Louvre: in fact, observing the locks of hair falling on the right shoulder, these do not correspond exactly to the above-mentioned picture; as also the border around the neck differs in small details … What is remarkable is the fusion of the tints of the flesh, especially in the eyes; the line which designs the nose, the mouth, and the oval of the face …”
Dr. Arduino Colasanti, former Director-General of Antiquities and Fine Arts. The hair, he believed, was Leonardo, and the upper part with the eyes and nose of the face. He stated that it was undoubtedly of the same period, and from Leonardo’s studio.
Dr. Giulio Cantalamessa, the Chief Director of the Borghese Gallery in Rome; and a great authority in his day: “This is the best ‘Mona Lisa’ that I have seen except the Louvre, which was in my hands for nearly two months. It is undoubtedly from Leonardo’s studio.”
Count San Martino di Valperga (Piedmont); for many years Honorary President of the Art Institutes of Italy, and President of the 1911 Exhibition. He immediately exclaimed: “Leonardia!” He thought it most magnificent, and much more beautiful than the ‘Mona Lisa’ in the Louvre, and very valuable. He stated that it was “the most beautiful picture he had ever seen”, and, in his opinion, Leonardo. Commendatore Marini, Inspector-General and Director-General of the Beaux Arts. He highly praised the picture; said it was undoubtedly from the studio of Leonardo da Vinci; though he could not say if it was from Leonardo’s brush alone.
Prof. Anto Sciortino, Director of the British Academy of Arts in Rome, writes in December 1922: “I have seen and examined the picture of Mona Lisa, and in my opinion is a very beautiful picture and is in perfect state of preservation and in my opinion is school of Leonardo da Vinci, also ‘Bottega di Leonardo’.”
Prof. Adolfo Venturi; well-known art critic and author. He stated that the picture was more beautiful than the Paris one. The compactness, and the beauty of the eye drawing, which he said is the principal portion done by Leonardo together with the line of the mouth, mark it as a gem in the art world.
Mr. Ludovico Spiridon; one of the most prominent art collectors in Italy of his day, and owner of the famous ‘Leda Spiridon’ version attributed to Leonardo, now in the Uffizi, stated: “ … the face has been painted by Leonardo; no doubt of this at all. It is most beautiful.”
Mr. Cesare Segre, well-known collector, and well acquainted with the Louvre ‘Mona Lisa’, examined the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ for some considerable time, and declared it was the most beautiful thing he had seen, and that it “ …would remain in my memory every night, and when I go to Paris and see the other I shall mentally be comparing the two. And I know which I prefer.”