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The mystery of the two Mona Lisa. A younger Mona Lisa? Or Ginevra de ’Benci?

A Mona Lisa ten years younger, autographed work, also by Leonardo da Vinci? . The painting is certainly fascinating, but from an observation of the structural elements, the work could be a workshop, even if the proximity to the master seems remarkable. Maybe that’s why the Isleworth Mona Lisa is so seductive. Instead, a Swiss foundation believes it has scientific evidence to prove that the work is Leonardo’s.

According to the Mona Lisa Foundation, which is based in Zurich, the portrait, discovered in 1913, predates the work of the Louvre, a precedent in which the master would have restored, in painting, a younger and fresher face of the famous model. The Foundation, for 35 years, has been working to demonstrate the autographing of the canvas, which has remained in the vault of a Swiss bank for over forty years. It is clear that the stakes are very high, both from a scientific point of view and in the more purely economic sphere. If the foundation were to prove the authenticity of the piece, the work – which today, without certain attribution, could be worth between one hundred thousand and 200 thousand euros – would not only enter the Leonardo catalog, but would reach values ​​now incalculable. The attribution process promoted by the Swiss is opposed, among others, by Martin Kemp, a professor at Oxford who stated that there is no evidence that the picture kept in a Swiss bank is a previous realization of the face of Mona Lisa. For Kemp it is a copy. Obviously incorrect statement. In reality it would be a different picture, created in ways that refer to the Mona Lisa. And the same elements that Kemp tries to turn against the Leonardesque circle turn against his full rejection. Kemp in fact claims that it is a copy that presents the reiteration of details of the original, including the veil of the model, the hair, the transparent layer of her dress, the structure of the hands. Yet the face is faced, from a constructive point of view, in a different way. There is also another fact that would lead one to think that the painting is subsequent and not previous to Mona Lisa in the Louvre: the use of the canvas instead of the wooden table, preferred by Leonardo.

According to the Swiss foundation, forensic tests – that is, carried out by experts, indicated by a court – have shown that it is the same woman – Lisa del Giocondo, wife of the wealthy Florentine merchant.
The Swiss relaunch this hypothesis, also based on historical evidence. “Since the sixteenth century – they claim – sources have suggested that Da Vinci painted two versions of the Mona Lisa: a portrait for her husband in 1503 (the Isleworth Mona Lisa), and another, completed in 1517, for Giuliano de ‘ Medici, Leonardo’s patron – the portrait, which now belongs to the Louvre collection ”. “No scientific evidence has so far been able to conclusively prove that this is not a Leonardo Da Vinci,” said the founding partner of the Swiss private body and art historian, Stanley Feldman. However, the foundation acknowledged that Isleworth Mona Lisa is an unfinished job because all parts of the painting have not been completed.
The painting was discovered in an aristocrat’s home in 1913 by the collector Hugh Blaker, who purchased it to place it in his studio in Isleworth, south-west London.
Then shipped to the United States during the First World War, it was purchased in 1960 by American art connoisseur Henry Pulitzer.
While the painting was in his possession, and kept in a Swiss bank, Pulitzer wrote and published a book, entitled “Where is the Mona Lisa?”, In which he claimed that the canvas was an unfinished portrait, laid out by Leonardo.
Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci Ideal Museum, said that the foundation’s comments deserve “consideration”. ” Isleworth Mona Lisa is an important work of art that deserves respect and strong consideration, “he said.
“The landscape is devoid of atmospheric finesse. The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original “replies Kemp. Open problem.

In the meantime, the young “Gioconda”, who had become American and exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, would have revealed herself not as Lisa Gherdini, but as Ginevra de ’Benci. In the painting datable between January 1475 and June 1476, the garland with a juniper branch in the center (allegory of the name Ginevra) with the motto “virtutem forma decorat” is the same that appears in the verse of the official portrait of Geneva, painted ascribed to Leonardo. So we are faced with a second Geneva, not a second Lisa. The National Gallery of Whashington has discovered with infrared rays that, under the painted motto, another phrase is hidden. It is the motto of Bembo: virtus et honor (beauty adorns virtue) and the garland, without the sprig of juniper, palm and laurel, is the noble symbol of Bembo himself. The union of the two symbolic elements, one evident, the other hidden, confirms the link between Geneva and the Venetian Bernardo Bembo, who arrived in Florence in 1475. A clandestine love. Geneva was officially owned by Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini, a widower who was fifteen years older than her. The marriage contract was signed in Florence on January 15, 1473, at the notary Simone Grazzini da Staggia. Anagramming the motto, according to the researcher Carla Glori, with the addition of the noun iuniperus (juniper) which appears painted at the center of the motto itself, 50 sentences would be obtained that tell the story of Ginevra Benci, depicted in the portrait, daughter of a wealthy banker. The researcher hypothesized that Leonardo used the motto as an “alphabetic machine” programmed to provide information on anagram of the portrait of Ginevra Benci, who he was and what was happening to her. The key to solving it all was to add the Latin word iuniperus or the sprig of juniper to the motto virtutem forma decorat. According to the Italian researcher, the alphabetic machine would bring out fifty deciphered sentences which are perfect anagrams and by linking them together it is possible to form a coherent and meaningful text. Leonardo, as is well known, was also an enigmist. And the use of alphabetic machines characterized restricted circles. Peculiarity of these ancestors of the computer was the fact that they did not perform a single function. They were programmed to contain multiple fixed functions which varied the contents according to the name entered.

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