With her straight dark hair and beguiling smile, the so-called “Isleworth Mona Lisa” bears an uncanny resemblance to her namesake in the Louvre.
To some experts, these similarities suggest the painting is a mere copy, though a handful of art historians believe it to be an earlier, unfinished version by Leonardo da Vinci himself.
This debate has raged for decades. But now the portrait stands at the center of a new dispute: an impending legal battle over its ownership. And if 2017’s record-breaking sale of another disputed Leonardo — the “Salvator Mundi,” whose authentication is still hotly debated — is anything to go by, there could be millions of dollars at stake.
Known to some as the “Earlier Mona Lisa,” the painting has spent much of the past five decades hidden in a Swiss bank vault. Acquired by a secretive consortium in 2008, the painting has since been shown in a number of galleries, most notably in Singapore in 2014 and Shanghai two years later.