Hundreds of paintings found in a Swiss Bank Vault include a portrait mirroring Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of Italian noblewoman Isabella d’Este that hangs in the Louvre.
Art scholars have long wondered if Leonardo ever followed up the sketch with a painting. Leonardo expert Carlos Pedretti believes this happened. "There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "I can immediately recognize Da Vinci's handiwork, particularly in the woman's face."
Scientific evidence supports Pedretti. Carbon dating tests of the painting certainly points to the time that Leonardo made the sketch. Other analysis shows that the paint and primer were those that Leonardo used.
But not all Leonardo experts agree. The fact that it was executed on canvas and not the wooden panels favored by Leonardo backs the doubters. As Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of art history at Oxford University told The Daily Telegraph, "Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line."
Experts have withheld attributing work to Leonardo before on account of the use of canvas. Last year, a supposed Leonardo painting of a mother and child found in a Scottish farmhouse was contested because it was painted on canvas. And a younger version of Mona Lisa found in another Swiss bank vault also was challenged because it was rendered on canvas.
Pedretti often stands alone in his opinions. In 1999, he announced that Leonardo based his paintings on sculpture. He concluded this after reading Benvenuto Cellini, Renaissance goldsmith and sculptor, who wrote that Leonardo made clay figures as models for his paintings.
Cellini is an unexpected source of information given his reputation for being unfaithful to historical fact. For instance, he told his patrons, the Medici’s, that his family's ancestry was traceable to the son of Zeus and Danae. Investigation of his bloodline proved otherwise.
Besides, Leonardo didn’t think much of sculpture:
"The lines of perspective of sculptures do not seem in any way true; those of painters may appear to extend a hundred miles beyond the work itself. The effects of aerial perspective are outside the scope of sculptors' work, which can represent neither transparent bodies, nor luminous bodies, nor angles of reflections, nor shining bodes, as in mirrors and things of glittering surface, nor mists, nor full weather, nor an infinite number of things which I forbear to mention lest they should prove wearisome."
Bottom line: If other presumed paintings by Leonardo have been rejected because they were rendered on canvas, how can this latest example be accepted?