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Long-lost painting believed to be da Vinci's discovered in Swiss bank vault

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A portrait of Renaissance noblewoman Isabella d'Este painted by Leonardo da Vinci was long rumored to exist - but it eluded discovery for almost 500 years. A painting discovered in a Swiss bank is now thought believed to be the genuine article, gone so long from the prying eyes of art historians as if to take on mythical status. The painting was found in a Swiss bank belonging to an Italian family, who wish to remain anonymous.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The painting was part of a private collection of 400 works kept in the bank. The work 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 hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The painting's existence had been debated. Historians argued over whether Leonardo had actually had the time or inclination to develop the sketch into a painted portrait. After first seeing the drawing he produced, the marquess wrote to Leonardo, asking him to produce a full-blown painting.

Da Vinci at that time then embarked on one of his largest works, "The Battle of Anghiari" on the walls of Florence's town hall. In 1503, he started working on the Mona Lisa. Art historians had long believed he simply ran out of time or lost interest in completing the commission.

It now seems that he did manage to finish the project, perhaps when he encountered the aristocrat, one of the most influential female figures of her day, in Rome in 1514.

Scientific tests also suggest that the oil portrait is indeed the work of da Vinci.

"There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo," according to Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Pedretti, a recognized expert in authenticating disputed works by da Vinci, told reporters that "I can immediately recognize da Vinci's handiwork, particularly in the woman's face."

Tests have shown that the type of pigment in the portrait was the same as that used by Leonardo and that the primer used to treat the canvas on which it was painted corresponds to that employed by the Renaissance genius.

There still needs to be further analysis to determine whether certain elements of the portrait, such as a golden tiara on the noblewoman's head and a palm leaf held in her hand like a scepter were the work of Leonardo or one of his pupils, Pedretti says.

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