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Is This An Early 'Mona Lisa?'

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The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation said today that it has evidence that a painting that first came to light in the late 1800s is an early "Mona Lisa" also done by Leonard Da Vinci.

Known as the "Isleworth Mona Lisa," the painting is a "portrait of a young woman with an enigmatic smile" much like the famous work of art in The Louvre, as The Associated Press writes. The foundation, which was created for the specific purpose of researching the history of the "early Mona Lisa," says it believes the painting was created 11 or 12 years before the more famous likeness. Its existence first became known when it "turned up in the [Isleworth] home of an English nobleman in the late 1800s," the AP says.

Among the foundation's evidence:

-- "Historical accounts ... [that] point to two distinct and different portraits, one being of the young Mona Lisa, and the second to a Florentine woman, or La Gioconda."

-- "Scientific and physical examinations" that indicate the "earlier" painting "aligns perfectly with the 'Golden Ratio,' " — which appears throughout Da Vinci's art — and that indicate the painting "was most likely executed at the beginning of the 16th Century." [That claim would seem to conflict with the idea that the earlier painting was done 11 or 12 years before the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, which authorities say was painted between 1503 and 1506. The artist, by the way, died in 1519.]

The foundation's claims aren't impressing some skeptics. According to the AP:

"Martin Kemp, an Oxford University professor and Leonardo expert, wrote in an e-mail that 'the reliable primary evidence provides no basis for thinking that there was an earlier portrait of Lisa del Giocondo' — referring to the subject of the painting that's known as the Mona Lisa in English and La Joconde in French.

"Kemp questioned the 'debatable interpretations' of source material about the Isleworth painting, and said that scientific analysis cannot categorically deny that Da Vinci didn't paint it. However, he added: 'The infrared reflectography and X-ray points very strongly to its not being by Leonardo.' "

The foundation has much more about what it says it has found in this video.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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