Tales of Two Leonardos Not in the Louvre Blockbuster

  • October 29, 2019 12:21

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The Mona Lisa, "earlier version" on left, and the French state-owned version at the Louvre, right.

Along with the current Louvre spotlight, Leonardo-mania gets stirred up with a legal snarl over a contested "twin" Mona Lisa and fresh fuel for the Salvator Mundi rumor mill...

The Louvre's well-publicized blockbuster celebrating Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci is underway with an unprecedented showing of 160 of his sketches and rare paintings together. Along with the 500-year-old masterpieces on view is a very 21st-century tour in virtual reality for up close inspection of the beloved Mona Lisa. (The 30-inch original is back in its usual gallery spot surrounded by hordes of visitors.)

Courtesy Castello di Rivoli

An opinion that has lingered for centuries is that there is another iteration of the French state-owned Mona Lisa, a work that is not on view in the Louvre exhibition.

An earlier Mona Lisa, some argue, "shows a younger—and dare we say—prettier version of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, who commissioned the work in the early 1500s," notes Daily Beast.

Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation and an international consortium called Mona Lisa Inc. are currently in a legal wrangle with London collectors Andrew and Karen Gilbert, with the help of Art Recovery International, over ownership issues with the earlier Mona Lisa. Provenance of the portrait currrently involves claims from a tangle of people. One group has Swiss bank vaults and an inheritance while the other has an Anguilla-based venture exposed in the Panama Papers.

A Florentine court is now tasked with sorting out this Mona Lisa mess in March.

Besides ownership and authenticity questions, it is unclear where this work actually is, reports Daily Beast.

Another "Leonardo" that is missing from public view and shrouded in doubts is, of course, the world's priciest artwork ever sold at auction, the Salvator Mundi. Whether this $450 million artwork is hiding out in the Middle East, Switzerland or New York, or perhaps having a risky sail aboard the Saudi Prince MBS's super yacht, is unknown. Considering that there are only 20 paintings extant by Leonardo, the Christ portrait is a notable no-show (so far) in the Paris retrospective.

In any case, another Salvator Mundi is on view. The "de Ganay" version is attributed to the studio of Leonardo da Vinci and the Louvre curators date this work to 1505-15 in the show's final gallery. A space opposite, reports The Art Newspaper, would have shown the $450 million Salvator Mundi.

ARTnews added a twist to the saga on Tuesday: "From October 30, 2019 will Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea present a painting that could be the famous Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci?” The cryptic headline came from the Turin, Italy, museum, in a press release along with an image of a distant Salvator Mundi-like portrait hung below a suspended animal sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian artist known for satirical works like the now-missing gold toilet sculpture America.


Read more at Daily Beast

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