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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

The First Mona Lisa

The 1503 artwork known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, thought by some to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Viale Diego Balsamo Crivelli, 11, 10126 Torino TO

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503–06) has captivated audiences for centuries. Perhaps it’s due to her dark eyes, which seem to follow those who look at her. Or her delicate mouth, that soft sensation of a smile. But what if the Louvre’s painting isn’t the only Mona Lisa? Another painting, the Isleworth Mona Lisa—also begun in 1503 and featuring a younger version of the same woman—has just gone on view in Turin. This version was acquired in Italy by the nobleman James Marwood, who brought it to England in 1778; the painting then made its way to Montacute House. In 1913, it was taken to Switzerland, where it was acquired by a dealer based in Isleworth. As is often the case with any work related to Leonardo, art experts are divided on its attribution. “It’s junk, a wind-up, it lacks the soul of Leonardo,” Vittorio Sgarbi, Italy’s junior arts minister, told The Times of London, “and I don’t know why anyone believes it.” Counters Joël Feldman, general secretary of the Mona Lisa Foundation, “There is no confusion; there were two paintings. We know Leonardo would complete more than one version of paintings, he had bills to pay.” Come see for yourself—and then make your own decision. —Elena Clavarino

Photo courtesy of the Mona Lisa Foundation