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Mona Lisa Nude, Huh?

By June 12, 2009

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Image ; used with permission

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?)


June 15, 2009 at 11:53 am
(1) Starrpoint says:

I guess it is now a party of two, I never heard of this either.
By the way, when I refer to him as Leonardo, and not da Vinci people look at me as if I am nuts. They don’t know who I am talking about.

June 15, 2009 at 11:57 am
(2) starrpoint says:

I vote no. Does not really look like his work at all. It is like they fit a nude into the shape of a clothed figure.

June 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm
(3) Lauri Polunsky says:

I’m with y’all.

June 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm
(4) Val Span says:

This picture looks too undignified to be by Leonardo. His works are usually more “elegant” and beautiful. As for his name, we use Caravaggio, the town of his birth, to refer to Michelangelo Merisi, so it’s easy to see why someone would use da Vinci to refer to Leonardo. I wonder if it was Vasari who started these conventions.

June 23, 2009 at 1:47 am
(5) Is rhat art? says:

Inelegant, for sure. Also inelegant is the laziness of news writers, reporters, media people, whatever they call themselves who do not check their facts and make from outlandish to downright ridiculous statements showing up their ignorance. There is no excuse, the myriad places they can go to for fact verification can start with Google and pass through libraries stopping by newspaper archives and in this case, the reporter could have checked the Ninja Turtles!

December 7, 2009 at 3:20 pm
(6) Paul says:

Giampietrino was a student of Leonardo’s and painted many nudes. These can give you an idea of what a Leonardo female nude would look like. One of his paintings of Mary Magdelane has recently been attributed to Leonardo.

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