Did Leonardo give 'Mona Lisa' a younger sister?
David Feldman, frustrated by responses to the scientific and academic studies, has decided to try the painting in the court of public opinion. After all, the Louvre Mona Lisa only achieved its full fame following its theft – in the 19th century, the museum’s star attraction was Raphael’s La Fornarina. “How could we ever get it authenticated?” wonders Feldman, considering the suspicion surrounding their efforts, and also what is at stake.
There may be another reason why there is such a reluctance to embrace a second Mona Lisa, one which is hinted at by Andy Warhol’s 1963 Thirty Are Better Than One, and explored more fully by psychoanalyst Darian Leader in his 2002 book Stealing the Mona Lisa.
Warhol’s multiple portrait shows how in art it is uniqueness that matters, and how less is most definitely more. Leader goes on to explore how, following its theft and subsequent recovery two years later, the Mona Lisa took on the ultimate role of mythic, unattainable symbol, “sublime and inaccessible”. The mysterious La Giocconda would be somehow diminished by the discovery that there are, in fact, two of her.
Part of what is so interesting about this other version is that we cannot know for sure. Is the painting beautiful? Undeniably. Is it from the right period? Yes. Has any reason been discovered why it definitively is not by Leonardo da Vinci? No. Can it have the aura, the mythological status of the Louvre Mona Lisa? Well, perhaps it needs to go on a few adventures first.
* The Isleworth Mona Lisa or the Mona Lisa Earlier Version will go on a world tour in 2014. monalisa.org