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Missing da Vinci painting found in Swiss bank vault

Date

Nick Squires

It was lost for so long that it had assumed mythical status for art historians. Some doubted whether it even existed.

But a 500-year-old mystery was apparently solved on Friday after a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was found in a Swiss bank vault.

The painting, which depicts Isabella d'Este, a Renaissance noblewoman, was found in a private collection of 400 works kept in a Swiss bank by an Italian family who asked not to be identified.

It appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by da Vinci in Mantua, northern Italy, in 1499. The sketch hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

For centuries it had been debated whether da Vinci had the time or inclination to develop the sketch into a painted portrait. After seeing the drawing he made, the marquesa wrote to the artist imploring him to produce a full-blown painting.

Shortly afterwards he embarked on one of his largest works, The Battle of Anghiari on the walls of Florence's town hall, and then, in 1503, started work on the Mona Lisa.

Art historians had long believed he ran out of time - or lost interest - in completing the commission for one of the most influential female figures of her day, in Rome in 1514.

Tests suggest the oil portrait is the work of da Vinci, Carlo Pedretti, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said. ''There are no doubts that the 24-inch by 18-inch [61 centimetre by 46 centimetre] portrait is the work of Leonardo,'' Professor Pedretti, an expert in authenticating disputed works by the artist, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The pigment in the portrait was the same as that used by da Vinci and the primer used to treat the canvas is the correct type.

Telegraph, London

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