PARIS • A nude drawing that bears a striking resemblance to the Mona Lisa may have been done by Leonardo da Vinci, experts said on Thursday.
Scientists at the Louvre in Paris, where his masterpiece is held, have been examining the charcoal drawing known as the Monna Vanna, which has been attributed to the Florentine master's studio.
The large drawing has been held since 1862 in the huge collection of Renaissance art at the Conde Museum at the palace of Chantilly, north of the French capital.
Curators from the museum believe after a month of tests at the Louvre that the "drawing is at least in part" by da Vinci.
"The drawing has a quality in the way the face and hands are rendered that is truly remarkable. It is not a pale copy," curator Mathieu Deldicque said. "We are looking at something which was worked on in parallel with the Mona Lisa at the end of Leonardo's life," he added.
"It is almost certainly a preparatory work for an oil painting," he added, with the obvious inference being that it is closely connected to the Mona Lisa. The hands and body are almost identical to those in da Vinci's inscrutable masterpiece.
The drawing is almost the same size as the Mona Lisa, and small holes pierced around the figure point to the fact it may have been used to trace its form onto a canvas.
A REMARKABLE DRAWING
The drawing has a quality in the way the face and hands are rendered that is truly remarkable. It is not a pale copy. We are looking at something which was worked on in parallel with the Mona Lisa at the end of Leonardo's life.
MR MATHIEU DELDICQUE, a curator from the Louvre in Paris, commenting on the Monna Vanna.
Louvre conservation expert Bruno Mottin confirmed that the drawing dates from da Vinci's lifetime at the turn of the 15th century and it was of a "very high quality". Tests have already revealed that it was not a copy of a lost original. But he said that "we must remain prudent" about definitively attributing it to da Vinci, who died in France in 1519.
"The hatching on the top of the drawing near the head was done by a right-handed person. Leonardo drew with his left hand," Mr Mottin added. Hatching is an artistic technique used to create tonal or shading effects by drawing closely spaced parallel lines.
But Mr Mottin said they hoped to find out who the artist is within two years, in time for an exhibition at Chantilly to celebrate the 500th anniversary of da Vinci's death.
More than 10 experts have been poring over the drawing for the past few weeks, using a variety of scans and other scientific methods. Their investigations have been centred on working out if the drawing was made before or after the Mona Lisa, which was painted after 1503.
The Chantilly drawing had originally been attributed to the Tuscan master when it was bought by the Duc d'Aumale in 1862 for 7,000 francs. Later, specialists had their doubts and thought it more likely that it came from a member of the artist's studio.
Around 20 paintings and drawings of nude Mona Lisas exist in collections across the world but most have proved very difficult to date.