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Lost Leonardo da Vinci painting found in Swiss Bank Vault

October 6, 2013
The painting appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.

The painting appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.

The Guardian has an attention grabbing story about a newly discovered portrait of Isabella d’Este purportedly painted by Leonardo da Vinci that was found in a Swiss bank vault.  This would be the fifth Leonardo discovered in the past two years – we’ve already seen an earlier version of the Mona Lisa, an ink and chalk image of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza’s illegitimate daughter Bianca, an unfinished Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, and a portrait of Christ recently included in Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London.  Of those four, only the last has been accepted as autograph.

According to the article:

Scientific tests suggest that the oil portrait is indeed the work of da Vinci, according to Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” Prof Pedretti, a recognised expert in authenticating disputed works by Da Vinci, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“I can immediately recognise Da Vinci’s handiwork, particularly in the woman’s face.”

However, another art historian has his doubts:

Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, and one of the world’s foremost experts on da Vinci, said if the find was authenticated it would be worth “tens of millions of pounds” because there are only 15 to 20 genuine da Vinci works in the world.

But he raised doubts about whether the painting was really the work of Leonardo.

The portrait found in Switzerland is painted on canvas, whereas Leonardo favoured wooden boards.

“Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line,” Prof Kemp told The Daily Telegraph. “Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.”

There are further doubts – Leonardo gave away his original sketch to the marquesa, so he would not have been able to refer to it later in order to paint a full oil version.

There’s more in that bank vault – some 400 works, all owned by an Italian family. Let’s see what else shows up.

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