Leonardo, La Belle Ferronnière


Leonardo da Vinci, La Gioconda, 1503-1506, oil on poplar panel, 73 x 53 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

This is possibly the most recognisable painting in the history of art.
In a recent discussion, I said that I preferred a painting, attributed to Leonardo, which is also in the Louvre, but in a less prominent position.


Leonard da Vinci, attrib., Ritrato di Dama or La Belle Ferronnière, 1490-96, oil on wood, 62 x 44 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

The painting’s title, applied as early as the seventeenth century, identifying the sitter as the wife or daughter of an ironmonger, ferronnier, was said to be discreetly alluding to a reputed mistress of Francis I of France, married to a certain Le Ferron. The tale is a romantic legend of revenge in which the aggrieved husband intentionally infects himself with syphilis, which he passes to the king through infecting his wife.
Although the model of the painting La Belle Ferronniere is still shrouded in mystery, she was possibly Beatrice d’Este, wife of Ludovico Sforza,   challenges the portrait’s earlier attribution to Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of Ludovico.


Leonardo da Vinci, La Dama con l’Ermelino, 1489-90, oil on panel, 54 x 39 cm, National Museum, Crakow, Poland

The portrait’s subject is Cecilia Gallerani, painted at a time when she was the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Leonardo was in the Duke’s service. It is one of only four portraits of women painted by Leonardo, the others being the Mona Lisa, the portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, and La belle ferronnière.


Detail from La Dama con l’Ermelino and La Belle Ferronnière

La Belle Ferronnière is attributed to Leonardo, although, as with so many paintings of the time, there is probably more than on hand.

Speaking of attribution, there is now serious concern about the painter of the lately purchased Salvator Mundi


Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, c1500, oil on walnut panel, 66 x 45 cm, Louvre, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has indefinitely postponed putting on display the painting bought for a world record price of $450.3m in 2017. Because its authenticity has been the focus of so much speculation, experts are wondering whether there may be new revelations to come about whether or not it is definitely a Leonardo.

And this one is a real mystery:


Unknown, after Leonardo da Vinci, The Isleworth Mona Lisa, date?, oil on canvas, 85 x 65 cm, Private Collection, Switzerland

This version of the Mona Lisa was bought in 1914 by the artist and critic Hugh Blaker, who lived in Isleworth, in West London. Unlike the Louvre’s Mona Lisa, around 1503-19, the painting is done on canvas, whereas the original is on panel. It has columns on the sides of the picture and the landscape is very simple. Blacker reported that the picture had come from a Somerset aristocratic collection. In 1962, the painting was bought by the UK based art collector Henry Pulitzer, who exhibited it very briefly in Phoenix, Arizona, in a commercial gallery. It has now disappeared, but is probably in a private collection, locked away in Basel, Switzerland.

BT, Meeting No27, 16 October, 2018


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