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A Blast from the Past

An article I found today really made me stop in my tracks- not just because of what it was about, but because there was a photo of my previous boss! A few years ago I was a Curator Assistant for the Aberystwyth School of Art in Wales and I also carried out research for the The Head of School of Art, Robert Meyrick. It was Robert’s photo that caught my eye first of all, and then I read what he had been getting up to…

Robert is a member of a team of art experts who unveiled a painting today (Thursday 27 September) in Geneva that many believe to be an earlier version of the Mona Lisa! He was invited to speak at the unveiling in Geneva as the world’s leading expert on Hugh Blaker (I carried out research on Hugh Blaker during my time at the Art School too). It was Blaker who bought the painting, which is known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, in 1913. The painting is believed to have been painted 20 years prior to the Mona Lisa we know, and has been subject to much debate- mostly over its authenticity.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris (left) and the Isleworth Mona Lisa
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris (left) and the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

If the Isleworth Mona Lisa turns out to be authentic, this will conclude that Leonardo da Vinci painted two versions of the Mona Lisa – an earlier version and the later iconic version!

Robert Meyrick explains, “From the outset, art collector and dealer Blaker believed that he had discovered an earlier version of the Mona Lisa, but did not have the science to prove it. He argued that Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) was originally two separate canvases, but after one went missing, both names were applied to the painting which is at the Louvre.

Unlike the Louvre version, the composition of the Isleworth Mona Lisa mirrors exactly that of a drawing Raphael made of the painting in Leonardo’s studio – which is now in the Louvre.”

After Blaker’s death in 1936, the painting passed to his sister Jane who lived at Gregynog. Following her death in 1947, it was sold in London to the American collector, Henry Pulitzer, who in turn left it to his girlfriend. On her death, it was bought by a Swiss consortium of unnamed individuals who have kept it in a Swiss bank vault for 40 years.

The event was attended by around 90 members of the world press and Leonardo scholars and was officially unveiled by Russian world chess champion Anatoly Karpov, who is also a Mona Lisa Foundation Board member.

The research will be presented in a newly published 320-page book entitled Mona Lisa – Leonardo’s Earlier Version, which was also launched at the unveiling.  It was Robert Meyrick’s research on Blaker that last year provided the evidence required to authenticate a painting by Amedeo Modigliani too, so he has definitely been busy!

It really has been a blast from the past seeing this news, as I really loved working at the Art School and had the pleasure of handling some fantastic works of art by such famous artists from all over the world. It is a huge reminder of how lucky I have been in my career and the opportunities I have been given.

 

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