The Mona Lisa Foundation

Summary of Connoisseurship


This section documented expert opinions both on the artistic merits of the earlier version, and its authorship by Leonardo da Vinci. With specific reference to the painting:

• Hugh Blaker, the great art connoisseur, instantly recognised the work as a Leonardo when he unearthed it, before World War I.

• Paul Konody, the international art expert also immediately endorsed it, comparing it favourably to the Louvre version.

• John Eyre, the art historian, wrote two monographs about the painting (1915 and 1926), which analysed it in detail, and compared it to the Louvre version. For him, the work was undoubtedly by Leonardo.

• Leading Leonardo experts in the Italy of the 1920s were virtually unanimous in their praise of the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’; this was decades before scientific testing of any importance was recognized as being relevant in the authentication process.

• More recently, Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, one of the most influential living experts on Leonardo da Vinci, world specialist in the subject of Mona Lisa and director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, states that of all the versions of the Mona Lisa, the earlier version is the most interesting and significant. It is a “superb painting, the face has a magnetic intensity and the portrait is of extraordinary quality.”

• Professor Jean-Pierre Isbouts states: “ … she glows. And all the pink tones and hues that Giorgio Vasari writes about are patently visible… That wonderful chiaroscuro, that interplay of light and shadow … there simply isn’t any other artist who could have created it.”

• Professor Átila Soares agrees: “ … the face, the hands … the whole atmosphere of the painting … you don’t see that in other versions or paintings that copy Da Vinci.”

• The painting has become available to a worldwide audience, giving today’s experts and connoisseurs a longawaited opportunity to appreciate it for themselves. Some experts, none of whom have seen the painting despite invitations to do so, have levelled challenges to the attribution of the painting to Leonardo. These challenges mainly revolve around the canvas support and the argument that the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ is a “copy” of the painting in the Louvre. However, among other factors, the numerous differences between the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ and its Louvre counterpart establish that it is an original work. In addition, there are numerous reasons as to why Leonardo would have executed this commission on canvas.

• Of all published opinions recorded, 28 out of 29 experts believe that Leonardo possibly or certainly executed
two versions of the Mona Lisa.

• Of all published opinions, 24 out of 28 experts believe the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ to have been possibly or certainly painted by the great master.

• Of all published opinions, 100% of those experts who have seen the painting believe it to be possibly or certainly by Leonardo. Those few denying the attribution have declined or not responded to invitations to view it.

• The peer-reviewed empirical work conducted by Professor John Asmus has demonstrated scientifically that the face of the Louvre and earlier Mona Lisas were executed by the same artist. As a result, any expert denying a Leonardo attribution to the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’, is also effectively stating that the great master did not paint the work that hangs in the Louvre.

In the words of Professor Isbouts, the world of Leonardo attribution is a “ … debating society … ” That there would be so much expert consensus on such an important attribution is in itself remarkable. This coupled with the accumulation of historical, comparative and scientific evidence can only lead to the conclusion that the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ is an autograph work by Leonardo.