‘Nude Mona Lisa’: Art experts think they might have discovered a new Da Vinci

A nude drawing that bears a striking resemblance to the Mona Lisa was done in Leonardo Da Vinci's studio and may be the work of the master himself, a French museum said on Monday.

'Nude Mona Lisa': Art experts think they might have discovered a new Da Vinci
Art historians think a sketch of a nude woman bears a striking resemblance to Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous work. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Experts at the Louvre in Paris, where the world's biggest collection of Leonardo's work is held, have been examining a charcoal drawing known as the Monna Vanna that has long been attributed to the Renaissance painter's studio.

But the charcoal preparatory work for a painting of a semi-nude woman, held at the Conde Museum at Chantilly north of Paris, may now have to be reclassified.

“There is a very strong possibility that Leonardo did most of the drawing,” Mathieu Deldicque, a curator at the Paris museum, told AFP.

Did Da Vinci draw the Monna Vanna himself? Photo: Michel Urtado/RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly/AFP

“It is a work of very great quality done by a great artist,” added Deldicque, who initiated an investigation over several months by historians and scientific specialists at the renowned C2RMF laboratory under the Louvre.

The large drawing has been held since 1862 in the huge collection of Renaissance art at the Conde Museum, once the home of one of France's oldest noble families.

“It is almost certainly a preparatory work for an oil painting,” Deldicque said, with the hands and body almost identical to the Mona Lisa, Leonardo's inscrutable masterpiece which hangs in the Louvre.

Microscopic examinations have shown that it was drawn from the top left towards the bottom right, the curator said — which points to a left-handed artist. Leonardo, who died in France in 1519, is the most famous left-handed painter in history.


Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The drawing will be shown at a special exhibition at Chantilly later this year to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the artistic genius, who was born in the Medici-ruled Republic of Florence in 1452.

Louvre conservation expert Bruno Mottin had earlier confirmed that the work dated from Leonardo's lifetime. But he was thrown by “hatching on the top of the drawing near the head done by a right-handed person”.

Since then “we have discovered lots of new elements”, Deldicque said, most notably “left-handed charcoal marks pretty much everywhere”.

Tests had already revealed that the drawing on paper, using Leonard's beloved “sfumato” technique, was not a mere copy of a lost original. But Deldicque said that “we must remain prudent” about definitively attributing the work to the great polymath.

“We want to be serious and scientific about this,” he told AFP. “The quality of the drawing, both to the naked eye and under imaging analysis” shows it was the work of an exceptional hand.

But experts cannot be “absolutely certain [it was by Leonardo] and we may never be,” he admitted.


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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.