History of the earlier version



The birth of
Leonardo da Vinci.


The birth of Lisa Camila Gherardini (Mona Lisa)



Leonardo returns to Florence from Milan, via Mantua and Venice.

c. 1503-06

Florence, Italy. Commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo as a portrait of his young wife, Lisa di Antonmaria di Noldo Gherardini (Mona Lisa).


Agostino Vespucci witnesses Leonardo painting the portrait of Mona Lisa in a manner that will leave it ‘unfinished’.


Raphael Sketch: ‘A Young Lady on a Balcony’ with side columns, based on Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’. Raphael’s subsequent painting; ‘Lady with a Unicorn’, follows a similar composition.

c. 1506

Leonardo leaves his ‘Earlier Version’ unfinished.

1550 and 1568

Giorgio Vasari describes this “ … unfinished … ” painting in his compendium of biographies: ‘The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects’.


Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo refers to the painting in his treatise ‘Pictures, Sculpture and Architecture’. In fact he notes two similar paintings by Leonardo da Vinci: a ‘Gioconda’ (Smiling One) and a ‘Mona Lisa’.

c. 1590–1730

Due to turbulent times in Italy and France, no records of the painting’s whereabouts exist.


c. 1730–50

The painting is acquired by an English nobleman making the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, and is brought to England as part of an art collection to be housed in his Somerset manor.



Hugh Blaker, art connoisseur and curator of the Holburne Art Museum in Bath, England, locates and rediscovers the painting, and purchases it from the aristocratic family there. He brings it to his studio in Isleworth, London, where he has the canvas re-lined and a new stretcher constructed.


The painting is sent to the United States for safekeeping during World War 1. It is housed in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until 1918.


John Eyre, art historian and expert, writes a monograph on the painting, which is immediately published in London and New York.


The painting is brought to Italy and shown to some of the leading experts and scholars of the time.


Eyre follows up with a book on the painting, detailing ten reasons for recognising it as the earlier version of ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci.


The Leicester Galleries, London, displays the masterpiece in an exhibition of paintings from the private collection of the late Hugh Blaker. The exhibition is arranged in conjunction with Blaker’s sister Jane, and Murray Urquhart, Blaker’s colleague and executor of his estate.


‘Encyclopedia Americana’ confirms the ‘Isleworth Mona Lisa’ to be the earlier of two versions by Leonardo da Vinci.


Dr. Henry Pulitzer (Pulitzer Galleries, Kensington, London & Berne, Switzerland) acquires the painting by selling his Knightsbridge house with all contents, plus a large number of paintings from his own collection. He brings the painting to Switzerland, where it is locked away in the vaults of a bank in Lausanne.


The Earlier ‘Mona Lisa’ is brought to Switzerland and locked away in a bank vault.


Pulitzer dies, and the painting is inherited by his partner, Elizabeth Meyer.


Internationally acclaimed ‘Quid’ almanac of France acknowledges the existence of two versions of ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci; the ‘Earlier Version’ in a Swiss bank, and the later version in the Louvre, Paris.


Web dictionary Wikipedia presents the ‘Earlier Version’, historically known since Blaker’s acquisition, as the ‘Isleworth Mona Lisa’.


Elizabeth Meyer dies, and the painting passes to an international consortium.


The Mona Lisa Foundation, Switzerland, a non-profit foundation, is established to research and exhibit the painting.



The Mona Lisa Foundation publishes the findings of 35 years of research and tests in its book ‘Mona Lisa – Leonardo’s Earlier Version’.