The Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci that attracts millions of tourists to the Louvre in Paris, is not the one exhibited at the famous French museum.
I am not saying that the exposed version of this iconic and enigmatic work of world picture is a fake.
I'm just saying that the painting that everyone in the world admires is not the Mona Lisa, described by Vasari in Le Vite, nor that which in a document of 1525 that lists the assets of Gian Giacomo Caprotti (the student of Leonardo known as Salai) comes for the first time mentioned as the Honda.
It is just another picture.
"Nothing can be loved or hated, without full knowledge of the facts". This is what Leonardo claimed in one of his innumerable writings, and he was never more apt.
To date, scholars believe that the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo between 1503 and 1506 and was taken with him to France where, in May 1517, the artist was welcomed by King Francis I, with the title of premier peintre, architecte, et mecanicien du roi and a pension of 5,000 scudi.
He took Leonardo to make for Francesco del Giocondo the portrait of his wife Mona Lisa, and four years later he left it imperfect, which is now the work of King Francis of France in Fontanable. And in this of Leonardo there was such a pleasant grin that it was more divine than human to see it.
Thus Vasari describes the work, referring to the famous mysterious "grin" that has perhaps deceived scholars from all over the world, then dwelling on a series of praises to the painting, which are actually rather generic, which clearly suggest that the work he refers to is not the one that which the whole world today celebrates and recognizes. Vasari refers in fact to the eyebrows, beautifully painted (but the Gioconda has neither hair nor eyebrows) and enhances the dimples on the cheeks (which are also absent).
Despite being so careful to describe certain details of the face, Vasari also makes no mention of two non-negligible defects: the Xantelasma portrayed between the eye and the nose - strangely undervalued by everyone - and an arthrogenic ganglion of the right hand, equally evident.
Two details that, if read correctly, would have long led to understanding the real meaning underlying the painting: not a lady of the period, but Leonardo himself in the feminine shoes, expression of an essential philosophical concept in all cultural and religious declinations - the Rebis - which refers to inner spiritual marriage.
Vasari also alludes to the fact that the work is incomplete.
But the Mona Lisa is not.
It is not in the landscape, which refers with extreme precision to the Lombard landscape of Lake Como (Lecco branch), and it is not in the features of the protagonist, whose details of the face, veil and dress are instead very accurate and defined.
It is clear that Vasari is describing a different painting from the one exhibited at the Louvre and that from a note by a Florentine chancellor, this Agostino Vespucci, in October 1503 is already completed.
This particular triggers yet another doubt, that is why Leonardo's absurd motif would have taken the painting of Francesco del Giocondo's wife for half of Europe.
But all this is not surprising. The entire life of Leonardo, including works, as it is told today is the result of gross presumptions, based on partial reconstructions of very later and denied undisputable by a conspicuous number of contemporary documents to the character.
Suffice it to recall that Leonardo's birth date (1452) is erroneously and totally assumed only in 1746.
In realtà tutti i biografi che ebbero modo di incontrarlo in vita ci descrivono un uomo ultra settantacinquenne. Above all Antonio de Beatis, the personal secretary of the Cardinal of Aragon who accompanied him to Cloux on a visit to Leonardo on 10 and 11 October 1517. Thanks to him we can resolve the misunderstanding on the painting of the Louvre, in addition to acquiring important elements of character biographical. In the notes related to this meeting, de Beatis refers to a man in his seventies, disabled in his right hand:
In one of the villages, the Lord and we others went to see Florentine Leonardo da Vinci, more than LXX years old, a painter etc. of our times, who showed his lordship three pictures: one of a certain Florentine dona, a painting of a beautiful painting, facto at the request of the quondam Magnifico Giuliano de 'Medici, the other of St. John the Baptist young and one of La Madona and the son who was placed in the lap of s. Anna, all perfectly perfect, even if from him to get some paralysis on the right, one cannot expect a good thing.
The Mona Lisa, commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo, does not appear in these paintings.
The gap is not trivial: the Louvre in fact brings the purchase of the Mona Lisa by Francesco I to 1518, together with S. Anna and S. Giovanni Battista, the two paintings mentioned by de Beatis.
When Leonardo dies, he leaves no painting in his will.
The painting now exposed in the Louvre, therefore, not only is not the Mona Lisa, but we know that it was acquired together with the others to be exhibited in Fontainebleau. It is here that Cassiano del Pozzo saw it in 1625, who, first and in a random and unfounded manner, gave it the name “Gioconda”.
So, if the painting exhibited at the Louvre is not the Mona Lisa, who is it?
Not only the landscape of the painting comes to the rescue, which as I said is inevitably Lombard, but a prerogative of Leonardo, until now unexplored, for which the artist used to dictate an unpublished iconography in his paintings, modifying his own same preparatory drawings, in order to include specific landscape references.
He did it with the Virgin of the Rocks - set in the cave of Saint John the Baptist in Laorca of Lecco, which was originally a Madonna of the Yarnwinder and takes on its current shape dictated by the Nibbio, a particular rocky conformation that overlooks the cave itself - and did the same with the Last Supper, whose profile of the apostles is dictated by the outline of Mount Resegone, the mountain that overlooks the city of Lecco, made famous by Alessandro Manzoni in the incipit of the Promessi Sposi.
Leonardo did the same with the alleged Mona Lisa, whose profile is dictated by the outline of the Bellagio promontory (which recalls the profile of a woman), where the lake of two becomes one, in a natural reference to the Rebis, the spiritual marriage that the painting subtends and where often Leonardo was hosted together with Ludovico il Moro by Marchesino Stanga, feudal lord of the place.
A further reference to the Lombard territory comes from an analysis conducted by Pascal Cotte, which highlighted the presence of a series of abrasions around the head of the lady portrayed, not visible to the naked eye, which clearly refer to the small swords of the Sperada, the typical Lombard hairstyle that in popular usage identified the Promised Bride.
It is no coincidence that when Manzoni has to give a face to his characters, for Lucia (the Bride Promise), the writer requires the young engraver Gonin to faithfully replicate the woman portrayed today in the Louvre, whom he himself had the opportunity to see with his own eyes in Napoleon's bedroom.
Moreover, the Bellagio promontory ideally combines the western and eastern branches of the Lario in marriage, providing a natural reference to the meaning underlying Leonardo's work, as also described in the apocryphal Gospel of St. Thomas:
When two of you make one, when you will make a single being of male and female so that there is no longer any male or female, then you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Returning to the diary of de Beatis, we find a possible solution to our question: if it is not the Mona Lisa, which painting by Leonardo is exposed today at the Louvre?
On 11 October 1517, from the Royal Residence in Blois, mentioning the works waiting to be conducted in Fontainebleau, he wrote:
There was also a picture in which a certain Signura di Lo'bardia (Lady of Lombardy) of natural beauty is pointed towards oil: but to me not as Signora Gualanda.
Now, I can't say how beautiful Isabella Gualandi was, the aforementioned "Signora Gualanda", daughter of a butler of the court of Alfonso of Aragon, but it is clear that the Signura di Lo'bardia has nothing to do with the Florentine Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
For all of the above, therefore, I think it is more plausible that the most famous, iconic and enigmatic painting in the world, which everyone calls Monna Lisa, is the Signura di Lo'bardia, the same that Antonio de Beatis observes on 11 October 1517 in Blois, after going to the bedroom of an elderly man in disgraceful seventies Leonardo.
The true Mona Lisa, which probably fulfilled the sole purpose of portraiture, clearly had a lower value than the Signura of Lo'bardia, whose substantial content is the absolute synthesis of knowledge in the wake of which Leonardo was raised.