A hitherto unknown but long suspected painting was recently discovered in a Swiss bank vault used by an undisclosed Italian family attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is a portrait of Isabella d’Este, the Marchessa of Mantua.
According to the UK Telegraph:
“The painting, which depicts Isabella d’Este, a Renaissance noblewoman, was found in a private collection of 400 works kept in a Swiss bank by an Italian family who asked not to be identified.
“It appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.
“The sketch, the apparent inspiration for the newly found work, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.”
Art historians have long wondered if the painting actually existed, though there are references to the Marchessa pestering the famous artist for the portrait. Isabella, a scion of the ruling house of Ferrara and wife of the Marquis of Mantua, was a well known patron of the arts and a collector of both art and antiquities, according to About.com. She was a powerful noblewoman, both because of her marriage and her ancestry, and was well skilled in the Renaissance arts of political intrigue. After the death of her husband, she became the ruler of Solarolo, a small Italian state, in her own right for ten years until her death in 1539.
The portrait has been analyzed by art experts, with both the pigment and painting style suggesting Da Vinci. Radiocarbon dating places the piece in the right period as well. However one Da Vinci expert suggested that the painting, while contemporary to Da Vinci, was not his work at all.
“Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, and one of the world’s foremost experts on da Vinci, said if the find was authenticated it would be worth “tens of millions of pounds” because there are only 15 to 20 genuine da Vinci works in the world.
“But he raised doubts about whether the painting was really the work of Leonardo.
“The portrait found in Switzerland is painted on canvas, whereas Leonardo favoured wooden boards.
“‘Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line,’ Prof Kemp told The Daily Telegraph. ‘Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.’
“There are further doubts – Leonardo gave away his original sketch to the marquesa, so he would not have been able to refer to it later in order to paint a full oil version.”
The question as to the actual creator of the painting will likely be the subject of discussion for quite some time to come.