So, did you hear the one about how Leonardo possibly painted other versions of La Gioconda, and how possibly one or more of the versions was nude from the waist up? If you didn't hear this, we are a party of at least two. Now, though, this apparently old rumor has come to the forefront due to the painting, above, going on display at an exhibition in Vinci, Italy.
The show is called Joconde: From the Mona Lisa to the Nude Gioconda. It opens tomorrow (June 13) and runs until September 30, 2009 at the Museo Ideale. It's divided into two parts: (1) works by Leonardo, his workshop and contemporary followers, and (2) 84,000 (all right, actually under 5K) riffs on the Mona Lisa that happened over the past 500 years. The big draw seems to be this painting, once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839), and formerly attributed to Leonardo. The big *question*--because, I guess, it's a slow news day--seems to be: was this Leonardo's own riff on the Mona Lisa?
Granted, it's hard to pick out much detail from this grainy little image, but my vote is "no." For starters, Leonardo wasn't given to doing female nudes. It may be a copy of something that Leonardo did, because the breasts are similar to the copy of his Leda and the Swan. But the face doesn't look like the sitter from the Mona Lisa to me. It looks a lot more like St. John the Baptist--or Bacchus (St. John in the Wilderness), or even St. Anne.
That's just my inexpert opinion, though. Tell me, what do you think?
(P.S. Pssst. MSNBC, you guys are bona fide journalists, right? So you know the man's name is "Leonardo," not "From Vinci," right? Right?)