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This 500-Year-Old Sketch Could Be a Nude 'Mona Lisa'

New tests on a centuries-old charcoal drawing have revealed that it may have been a starting point for da Vinci's masterpiece.
Composite Wikimedia Commons; Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images 

Scientists and researchers are constantly reexamining classic artworks to find clues about how they were made and details on the artists behind them. Now, a team at the Lourve in Paris believes they may have their hands on a nude drawing linked to the Mona Lisa and created in part by Leonardo da Vinci, the Washington Post reports.

Experts have always believed that the master artist drew or even painted a nude version before creating the Mona Lisa, the Post reports. The 500-year-old sketch, Monna Vanna, certainly looks like it could be linked to the Mona Lisa, with the subject's similarly crossed arms and tilted head, down to the shape of her fingers.


"The drawing has a quality in the way the face and hands are rendered that is truly remarkable," Conde Museum curator Mathieu Deldicque, told the Guardian. "It is not a pale copy."

One Redditor was even compelled to make a composite of the two.

The charcoal sketch is part of a collection that came out of da Vinci's studio and has been kept at Deldicque's Conde Museum since 1862. Originally, experts believed it belonged to one of the painter's students, but new evidence points to Monna Vanna being a collaborative effort between two different artists. Although the style of the drawing is close to da Vinci's, experts believe part of the work was done by a right-handed artist, whereas da Vinci was left-handed. Still, the team has been able date the piece back to having been produced right before the artist died in 1519.

"We are looking at something which was worked on in parallel with the Mona Lisa at the end of Leonardo's life," Deldicque said. "It is almost certainly a preparatory work for an oil painting."

Despite the findings, the verdict is far from out. According to the Guardian, Conde Museum chief heritage curator Bruno Mottin hopes to identify the artist in the next two years, just in time to celebrate 500 years following da Vinci's death.

"There are two mysteries," Deldicque told the Post. "The author, and the meaning of this nude Mona Lisa."