The presentation of painting "The Isleworth Mona Lisa" by Swiss Foundation "Mona Lisa" as a younger version of "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci caused scepticism among many academic art critics and historians. One would think that beautiful and logical version of Leonardo's portraying the same woman with a gap of 11-14 years, after more careful examination of the subject, actually causes many questions.
     The majority of experts do not dispute the time of the creation of the painting. Objective research-based data confirm that the work, indeed, has been painted in the early 16th century. But who is the true author?

      Scepticism of academic researchers, which seems reactionary to a casual art amateur, is quite explainable. Over ten copies of "La Gioconda" are well-known (and histories of some of them are so exciting that they are worth a separate story), and information on them emerges in the artistic society with enviable permanency. Thus, in the beginning of 2012, half a year prior to the presentation of "The Isleworth Mona Lisa", Madrid's Prado Museum demonstrated to the audience its "own" "La Gioconda".

    The painting which had been held in the museum's collection for a long time and was not considered to be a valuable exhibit, attracted attention after the conduction of cardinal restoration. It turned out that under washed-off layer of dark base colour, applied later (it remained a puzzle who has applied it and what for), the second-layer painting was revealed, similar to Italian scenery of the Louvre's "Mona Lisa". Besides that, it became clear that the work is painted on walnut board, like many paintings by da Vinci. X-ray and infrared investigations showed that the portrait has all small perfections which Leonardo used to make on the original over time.

Mona Lisa, Prado    These facts gave grounds to state with more certainty that Prado's "Mona Lisa" had been created simultaneously with the original. However, no traces of Leonardo's hand were found at this painting: sfumato technique developed by the artist - objects' outlines blurring which allows air imaging - had not been applied. It is most likely that the painting's author could have been one of Leonardo's pupils (Andrea Salai or Francesco Melzi), who had worked in his workshop then.

    1. One of the arguments advanced by the Foundation as evidence of Leonardo da Vinci's authorship is a painting by Raphael Santi made by him during studies in da Vinci's workshop and presented by the Foundation as a sketch of "The Isleworth Mona Lisa", at which Leonardo had worked at the time. However, this drawing could be a sketch of a famous painting "Young Woman with Unicorn" by Raphael which composition and poor background structure with columns framing the subject exactly corresponds to the abovementioned sketch. The only difference is the creature in the woman's arms - the unicorn. X-ray investigation of the painting during its restoration in 1936 showed that only its upper two thirds had been written by Raphael. Woman's arms holding a little dog were painted in addition later by another artist, and decades later the unicorn, painted by one more unknown artist, replaced the dog.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa    In all fairness it has to be mentioned that, in the opinion of many researches, the background of the original "Mona Lisa" also had columns on each side which were cut off afterwards. Perhaps, this was done by da Vinci himself to improve the composition.
    2. The Foundation's statements that computer simulation of female face aging confirmed that "Mona Lisa" of the Louvre in her young ages had looked like "The Isleworth Mona Lisa" also cause mistrust.
Raffaello Santi. Drawing    The reason is actual compliance of the face of the "new" Gioconda with female beauty canons accepted in Italy of that time. Naturally, many artists in their creative work followed the fashion as well as traditions of reputable da Vinci's workshop. These considerations are confirmed by numerous Madonna images painted by artists of the High Renaissance (including Raphael), which are strikingly similar to "The Isleworth Mona Lisa" and, according to the logic of experts of the Foundation, to the original "Mona Lisa" in her youth.
     At the same time, many historians justifiably state that the prototype of the original "Mona Lisa" could also have been Leonardo's pupil, Andrea Salai.
     Hence, it is quite difficult to give answer to the question: "Whom could Gioconda actually look like in her youth?"
Raffaello Santi. Young Woman with Unicorn.  3. From the scientific point of view, strict identification of any new "Mona Lisa" requires analysis of the Louvre's "Mona Lisa" as well, since today the original has quite another appearance than after its completion by the author. However, the condition of the painting is so poor that, notwithstanding the emergence of computer restoration techniques, it is impossible to carry out large-scale analysis of the work. The painting covered by several layers of time-darkened varnish with a great number of expanding craquelures is stored in a hermetic glass case, which is being opened for investigations once a year at night for several hours. Today the main task for art historians is primarily preservation of the "Mona Lisa" original in the current state.
   Only emergence of revolutionary techniques of painting restoration, ensuring that no damage is done to paintings, can shed light on puzzles of the painting. It may happen that after removal of dark varnish Gioconda will appear to be several years younger, and colour system of the painting will change.
   For this reason many facts of "similarity" of this or that "Mona Lisa" disseminated by mass media are of no substantiated scientific value.
   4. In general, without detraction from the virtues of the original "Mona Lisa" and from outstanding talent of da Vinci, it should be mentioned that it was not until the painting's theft in 1911 that the painting became widely popular. In the parlance of our time, this occurrence was a great PR event for the painting. While previously the painting had been known mainly to specialists, after its triumphal returning to the museum, extensively covered in mass media, it became familiar practically to everyone. Now it is the only artwork which has turned into an object of the world mass culture, a brand earning enormous money. And mysterious "Mona Lisa" of the Louvre needs no competitors.
    This is also a non-insignificant reason of scepticism of official quarters as to "The Isleworth Mona Lisa" being a work by Leonardo da Vinci.
   This story will be hardly put to rest soon. Each "new" "La Gioconda" just stirs up public interest in the original "Mona Lisa", and later on there will appear many occasions to write the next continuation of this one.

Леонардо да Винчи. Мона Лиза, Лувр.
Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa, the Louvre. 1517

Леонардо да Винчи. Дама с горностаем
Leonardo da Vinci
Lady with an Ermine. 1490

Рафаэль Санти Сикстинская мадонна
Raphael Santi
Sistine Madonna, fragment. 1513

Леонардо да Винчи. Иоанн Креститель
Leonardo da Vinci
John the Baptist. 1515

Мастерская да Винчи. Портрет Салаи
Da Vinci's workshop
Portrait of Salai. 1495

Рафаэль Санти. Малая мадонна Каупера
Raphael Santi
Small Cowper Madonna. 1505
Леонардо да Винчи. Святая Анна с Мадонной и младенцем Христом
Leonardo da Vinci
The Virgin and Child with St.Anne. 1510

Рафаэль Санти. Мадонна Грандука
Raphael Santi
Madonna Granduka.1504

Рафаэль Санти. Изабелла Арагонская
Raphael Santi
Isabella of Aragon

Materials on the subject:
1. Mona Lisa. WikipediA.
2. Computer Restoration of "Mona Lisa"Painting.