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Friday, May 30 • 12:00pm - 1:30pm
(Research and Technical Studies) Seeing Double: Leonardo's Mona Lisa Twin

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It is a curious fact that Leonardo da Vinci painted two versions of what have become his most celebrated artworks. Most notable of these famous pictures are his “Virgin of the Rocks” (London National Gallery and Louvre), “Virgin and Child” (Hermitage and Munich Alte Pinakothek), and “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” (London National Gallery and Louvre.) For centuries there has been speculation concerning the possible existence of a second Mona Lisa, as well. Countless Mona Lisa copies have surfaced through the ages and several have been advanced as the long-lost “Second Mona Lisa”, only to be dismissed after failing scientific or historical scrutiny.

Twenty-three years ago the heirs of the late Joseph Pulitzer asked me to examine a painting known as the “Isleworth Mona Lisa” that was in the family collection of fine art. This invitation was extended in response to my ten-year study of the varnishes and pentimenti of the Louvre “Mona Lisa.” My studies led to the conclusion that the intricate geometrical principles employed in the two paintings were identical even though individual features are different in both size and proportion. Thus it was clear that the Isleworth portrait was not a mere copy of the painting in the Louvre.

Subsequently, the Isleworth painting has passed every scientific test available in art conservation science from radiocarbon dating to digital-image age regression. It has emerged that Leonardo painted the Isleworth piece around 1503 and the Louvre portrait around 1513. This discovery settles a protracted debate among art historians as to whether Leonardo painted the “Mona Lisa” in 1503 or 1513.  Both dates are correct, but for different paintings.

avatar for John Asmus

John Asmus

Research Physicist, Physics Dept., University of California, San Diego
John F. Asmus is on the Research Faculty of the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego and is associated with the Center for Advanced Nanotechnology. He earned his PhD. From the California Institute of Technology and is the co-founder of the Center for Art/Science... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 12:00pm - 1:30pm PDT
Regency Room