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Drawing’s Mona Lisa style puts da Vinci in frame

A drawing of a naked character, which bears striking similarities to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, could be by the artist himself and not one of his students new research shows.

Initially called Mona Vanna and later the Nude Mona Lisa, the artwork is on show in Chantilly to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the artist, who spent his last years in Amboise, Indre-et-Loire.

The discovery is the result of two years of analysis by the musée Condé, which owns the drawing, and the Centre for research and restoration of the museums of France (C2RMF).

It is said to have been drawn later than the painting of the Mona Lisa – which is known as La Joconde in France – probably after 1503, in da Vinci’s workshop.

It was thought to have been by one of the artist’s students but analysis now suggests that he drew it himself, even though, as with all his works, he did not sign it.

The experts have, however, said that it is not really another version of his most-famous work.

Museum curator Mathieu Deldicque said: “The character represented is a model of ideal beauty, an androgynous character between feminine and masculine.

“But it is not the Mona Lisa.”

The character however bears many of the same traits: the same smile, eyes, and the same position of hands.

It is the work of a left-handed artist, analysis has shown, as da Vinci was.

However, this drawing has been altered afterwards, around the arm and the fingers and historians believe one or more of Leonardo’s students, could have made these changes.

One thing is certain: the drawing was made in the artist’s workshop and was a prototype for future paintings.

It was clearly used as a model for a painting, also known as the Mona Vanna, which is on display at Museo Ideale in Vinci, Italy.

The latter painting is said to have been by Salai, a good-looking student of da Vinci – who experts have said may even have been the model for the original drawing.

The ‘Nude Mona Lisa’ was probably also the basis for a similar painting called Donna Nuda, in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, which is still being analysed by researchers to see if it is an original da Vinci.

Sometimes called the erotic twin of Mona Lisa, Donna Nuda was attributed to Leonardo until the 19th century.

Mr Deldicque said: “At the time, everything that came out of the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci was attributed to him. People did not realise it could also be one of the paintings of his students.”

The musée Condé, in Chantilly, will exhibit the Nude Mona Lisa and others that may have been inspired by it until October 6.

An exhibition featuring 120 of Leonardo’s works – including paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculptures and other items loaned by some of the most prestigious European and American institutions – to mark the 500th anniversary of his death opens at the Louvre on October 24.

More than 30,000 tickets were sold within two days of the ticket office opening in mid-June.

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