‘Mona Lisa’ dispute: Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is ‘unassailable’

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The museum and researcher Carlo Baldassarri are at odds over the authenticity of the Mona Lisa

The prominent Italian museum where the so-called “Salvator Mundi” – Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece that sold for $450m (£350m) – was on display says it is not certain of its authenticity.

The Sistine Chapel Museum said its scientific experts conducted an examination of the artwork before it was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday.

But it added that the review of the painting has now been “tabled”.

The museum is at odds with its own research which says the painting’s ownership can be confirmed.

The Sistine Chapel Museum said that experts would “take a few weeks to complete their examination and may come to different conclusions than those announced by Sotheby’s”.

After the painting was sold, Sotheby’s released a statement saying that its own experts supported its authenticity.

Astonishing purchase

Taken in around 1500, the “Salvator Mundi” is one of fewer than 20 Mona Lisas known to exist.

But the results of Leonardo’s painstakingly created portrait – inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s quest to perfect the original Renaissance painting – are pretty clear.

In the Mona Lisa’s famous pose, she has her left hand resting slightly below her hip.

The white pigment, derived from olive orchid orchids in the Italian regions of Emilia Romagna and Piedmont, and outlined in golden bands, is an “Orientale”; or Polish, says science and art historian Dr Benjamin Durant.

The painting measures almost seven feet (1.92m) long, 2.8 feet (1.12m) high and six feet (1.83m) wide, according to Professor Maika Sandberg of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who compared the paint in the Mona Lisa with the paintings of Saint Catherine of Siena, a ruler of the Holy Roman Empire who painted herself into her death mask.

The landscape painter Carolo Vassallo used the St Catherine technique to paint his portrait of Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in the gothic Church of Sante Fe de la Veracruzida in northern Spain in 1629.

Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of Fondazione di Venezia, the foundation of Leonardo’s descendants, said Leonardo himself would have approved of the painting being sold.

“This painting will be a magnificent gift for the new Pope,” he said.

Image copyright Sotheby’s Image caption Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” was painted in Paris, as a portrait of Lisa Gherardini

Di Leonardo worked out the story behind the Mona Lisa before he died in 1490.

He told the tale of how a wealthy merchant named Marcantonio da Messina caught her in her home town, Milan, after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The Mona Lisa was a “maitre”, or servant of the late merchant who tracked her down in true Renaissance style with detective skills honed in military service and his tireless efforts to gain expertise, according to art expert Dr Magnus Hirschhorn.

The academic, from the American Museum of Natural History, says Da Vinci conceived the painting as a surprise to his friend and client.

He posed as the merchant who tricked the Mona Lisa by hiding his presence until he was invited to the Renaissance master’s masterful unveiling.

How it could be worth even more

The Mona Lisa is said to be one of the 10 most valuable artworks in the world.

The Sistine Chapel Museum says the painting could end up being worth another £400m.

According to Cambridge University’s international fine art auctioneer firm Leake Associates, the Mona Lisa could be worth around £2.4bn.

All told, this “Giant of the Paintings” is more valuable than the total value of the Grand Canyon, Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Sistine Chapel and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Leonardo Da Vinci may have created the Mona Lisa to placate his friend and patron

Leave a Comment