The Fab Fake


Once in awhile a fake comes along that is “better” than the original.  The face to your right is the restored version of the first “copy” of the famous Mona Lisa.  Now identified as the “original” copy of what may be the world’s most famous painting, it was painted by either a student or a fan of da Vinci’s quite near the time the original was completed.  Best guess is the copy – seen right, was done by Francesco Melzi.

The most fun about the latest revelation of the ongoing mystery of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is that it proves author Dan Brown to be the utter historical fraud I have known him to be. He is a good writer, but he has done tremendous damage to real and actual historical facts.

Believe it or not, The Pink Flamingo minored in fine arts. I spent a heck of a lot of time studying Roman, post-Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance Europe. I don’t mind admitting that da Vinci as a painter never excited me all that much. I also don’t mind admitting that I never found the Mona Lisa all that. I’m much more interested in going through the various da Vinci pieces to see if he ever sketched a portrait of Anne Boleyn. She was in France, at the court of Louis XII in France.

Anne was a maid of honor to her future sister-in-law, Mary Tudor, who was the Queen of France. She was there, at the French court, for seven years, from 1514-1521. Louis XII died in 1515, leaving Mary a very beautiful young dowager. In 1515, his successor, Francis I invited Di Vinci to become the court painter. He remained in France until his death in 1519. During those years, Anne was quite the court favorite, interested in music, literature, and the arts. She was also a maid of honor to Queen Claude of France, the wife of Frances I, for nearly 7 years.

I have absolutely not doubt the two met. Da Vinci was quite prolific with his sketching and drawings. The problem is they are scattered, and I don’t think anyone has ever bothered looking for a likeness of Boleyn. In fact, it was during his stay in France, that Francis I ended up with the Mona Lisa.

I rather suspect one of the reasons Francis invited Leonardo to reside in France was to thwart Henry VIII, who fancied himself a patron of the arts. Henry became King in 1509, and Francis a few years later. They were near enough the same age and ambition to have postured and vied for such a celebrated munitions expert as da Vinci. The genius was NOT wanted for his art, but rather his military inventions. During his lifetime, he was a one man arms race.

For ages, there have been theories about the mysterious Mona Lisa and her identity. I must admit my favorite is Leonardo in drag. I don’t quite know how he managed to hide the beard in the painting, but those are just petty details. They’ve thought she was his mistress (which I doubt, since I think his bread was buttered on the other side), maybe his mother, his lover in drag, and most logical, Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo. (A note was discovered in 2005 that states da Vinci was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo)

Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo was called Mona Lisa by her husband, Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, whom she married when she was only 15.

“...In June 1537 in his will among many provisions, Francesco returned Lisa’s dowry to her, gave her her personal clothing and jewelry and provided for her future. Upon entrusting her care to their daughter Ludovica and, should she be incapable, his son Bartolomeo, Francesco wrote, “Given the affection and love of the testator towards Mona Lisa, his beloved wife; in consideration of the fact that Lisa has always acted with a noble spirit and as a faithful wife; wishing that she shall have all she needs…”….”

Currently, archaeologists have found the crypt where they think, Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo may be buried. They have found a 500 year old crypt in the Convent of St. Ursula in Florence. A skull has been removed from the older of the two crypts. If possible, DNA will be compared to Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo living relatives.

UK Daily Mail

“...Lisa Gheradini, who died in 1542, was the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. In Italy the Mona Lisa is known as La Gioconda. Most modern historians agree that the lady depicted in the Mona Lisa was Lisa del Giocondo, who became a nun after her husband’s death. She died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63. The couple were married in 1495 when the bride was 16 and the groom 35 and it has been suggested that the da Vinci was commissioned the portrait to mark her pregnancy.

It is not the first time that Professor Vinceti has used such techniques in his work – last year, similar methods were used to locate and identify the remains of Caravaggio, another Renaissance master.

Last year in a Dan Brown-style mystery professor Vincenti also claimed that a hidden message could be seen in the eyes of the Mona Lisa after examining them with a high powered magnifying glass….”

Well…. it’s like this.

Mona Lisa


Digital Retouch - To Bring Out Original Color

Now for the big news….

“…A copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” was painted by a pupil or follower of the artist at about the same time as the original was created, and is now considered the oldest known copy of the enigmatic piece of work, scientists announced this week.

The painting was previously held in the Spanish royal collections, before it was sent to Madrid in 1819 when the Museo del Prado there was founded. Researchers studying the artwork think it is the painting referred to in 1666 in an inventory of the palace Alcázar in Seville as a female portrait associated with da Vinci. They suspect the copy may have reached Spain in the early part of the 17th century, according to Miguel Falomir Faus, the Prado’s curator of Italian Painting up to 1700….”

The original “copy” was not noticed because the sitter was posed in front of a dreary background diffrent from the original. In March, it was discovered that there was a nasty varnish covering it. The restoration of the copy should be finished in a few weeks.

From what has been released, one now knows why Lisa Cherardini was considered such a beauty. Even the digital re-touch does not capture her beauty. You also see why a wealthy older merchant married a 15 year old girl with very little dowry, and utterly worshiped her.

Live Science - "Original" copy of Mona Lisa

For years there has been a debate about whether or not the women in the portrait had eyebrows. This solves that discussion. It is also quite obvious, the woman’s brows and her eyes reflect the style of the time period, not some fanciful creature.  Even more interesting is to compare the  portrait of Anne Boleyn, painted in the 1520s.

Anne Bolyen

Look at the shaping of the eyes, the softness of the brows, the lack of eyelashes and the color of the lips!

John Hoskins Minature
Mary "Rose" Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk
Catherine Parr
Holbein's Jane Seymour

The Pink Flamingo considers Hans Holbein the Younger to be a far superior portrait artist than da Vinci.  I know, it is heresy and I shall be struck dead by lightening bolt, but that’s my biased opinion.  Just look at this portrait of his wife and family.

Holbein's Family
da Vinci: The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
Holbein - Edward VI as baby
Da Vinci - Virgin of the Rocks

In fact, Holbein was greatly influenced by Leonardo, as seen below in Lais of Cornith.

Holbein - Lais of Corinth

Then there is Holbein’s portrait of one of my ancestors, Sir Thomas Moor (through my grandmother Froehlich, Sarah Frances Moore).

Holbein - Sir Thomas Moor

Now, back to the “copy” of the Mona Lisa.  Holbein, who greatly admired da Vinci used dramatic colors in his work. Take a look at the “copy” of Mona Lisa.  You will see the difference in the colors, far more vibrant that we see in the original.  I suspect the reason is that no one is going to do the same restoration to the original, which may be a shame.


If the copy was done by Melzi, he was the one who inherited Leonardo’s estate.

Franchesco Melzi

The Pink Flamingo predicts, if this is true, you may see the art world blown wide open.  I know what I think.  Look at the hands on the bottom three paintings. Let’s see if you pick up what I have.  You can tell that the “copy” of the Mona Lisa was done by Melzi.  That just screams out at you.

Francesco Melzi's Mistress

Da Vinci: lady with an Ermine

One thought on “The Fab Fake

  1. I never really liked the Mona Lisa. I always thought it was rather weird. The first time I saw the Mona Lisa years ago in the Louvre, they had built a platform around the picture so one could walk around it and see it from all angles. The painting was smaller than I expected it to be. Her eyes were supposed to follow you as you walked around the picture. I never did see the eyes following me. But at Nottoway Plantation House outside of New Orleans, there is a portrait of a lady whose eyes do follow you wherever you are in the room. It is rather spooky.

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