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Mona Lisa: 'Original Version' Goes On Show
An earlier vision of the Mona Lisa is due to be unveiled in Geneva - with disputed claims it is the original version of the iconic Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.
The Swiss-based Mona Lisa Foundation organising the event says detailed research over three decades strongly indicates it is an earlier portrayal by the Italian genius of the world's most famous painting.
Foundation member and art historian Stanley Feldman said: "We have investigated this painting from every relevant angle and the accumulated information all points to it being an earlier version of the Giaconda in the Louvre.
The one currently recognised Mona Lisa is known as La Giaconda or La Joconde in Italy and France.
Da Vinci had been commissioned to do a portrait of Lisa Gherardini by her husband, early 16th century Italian nobleman Francesco del Giacondo, but the artist never delivered it to him.
The work being presented to experts and media in Geneva shows a woman apparently in her early 20s in the same pose and with an enigmatic stare similar to that of the Louvre masterpiece - which depicted a woman in her early 30s.
The Irish-born Mr Feldman and his brother David, long involved in the art world, said historical evidence, critical comparison and scientific examination using the most modern techniques supported their view on what it really is.
Cautiously backing the 'two versions' thesis - which if proven would create a major sensation in the art world - are leading Italian Da Vinci specialist Alessandro Vezzosi, another foundation member, and US-based expert Carlo Pedretti.
But other experts on the artist, sculptor, architect and designer who bestrode the European cultural world from the late 15th century until his death in a small French chateau on the Loire at the age of 67 in 1519, are strongly sceptical.
In a 300-page illustrated volume being issued by the foundation, Mr Vezzosi, director of the Da Vinci museum in the artist's home town of Vinci in central Italy, calls on the critics to keep an open mind.
He writes that the book "will permit an unbiased judgement of the claim of this painting to be the earlier portrait, incomplete, of a young Mona Lisa, much younger than that of the Louvre.
But Martin Kemp, Oxford University professor and world-recognised authority on Da Vinci, argued the Geneva portrait is probably a copy of the Paris version by an unknown painter who simply chose to make the subject younger.
"So much is wrong," he said, pointing to the fact - among others - that the foundation's portrait is painted on canvas and not on wood, the artist's preferred medium.