"Original Mona Lisa" given Geneva launch

Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:17pm EDT
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - A Swiss-based art foundation on Thursday unveiled what it argues is Leonardo da Vinci's original "Mona Lisa", backing its claim with evidence from a U.S. research physicist, a forensic imaging specialist and a top Italian expert on the artist.

Members of the group told a packed Geneva news conference that the portrait of a woman who appears to be some 10 years younger than the sitter in the famous painting in the Paris Louvre could only be the work of the Renaissance genius.

"The facts are overwhelming and clearly prove the authenticity of the masterpiece," said Swiss lawyer Markus Frey, president of the private Mona Lisa Foundation which insists it has no financial stake in the painting.

And Stanley Feldman, an art historian and member of the group, said that critics who have rejected any suggestion the "younger" version could be by Leonardo had never seen it. "We invite them to Geneva to study it themselves," he added.

"It is absolutely clear that neither this nor the Louvre version are copies," he said, in a clear response to British Leonardo authority Martin Kemp, who told a London newspaper last week "so much is wrong" with the foundation's painting, including that it is painted on canvas and not on wood, the artist's preferred medium.

In a luxurious 300-page publication devoted to research over 30 years on what has long been known as the "Isleworth Mona Lisa," the foundation argues that it was painted between 1503 and 1505 in Florence and never finished.

Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo museum in the Renaissance giant's home town of Vinci in central Italy and a world-renowned expert on the artist, said he had long believed in the existence of two Mona Lisas.

The foundation's version -- which has been owned since 2008 by a private consortium -- seemed likely to be the one that was recorded in a recently discovered document from 1503 and which he had long been seeking, said Vezzosi.   Continued...

Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, Director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, points to details on a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and representing Mona Lisa during a presentation in Geneva September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse