A lost Leonardo? Top art historian says maybe

ROME (Reuters) - Move over, Mona Lisa. If Carlo
Pedretti's hunch is right, the world may soon have
another Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece to admire.

A stunningly beautiful painting called Mary Magdalene
which the world-class art historian suspects may have
been painted by Leonardo da Vinci together with one of
his pupils will soon go on public view for the first
time in more than half a century.

The painting, measuring 58 cm by 45 cm, was believed
to have been painted in 1515, four years before the
master died.

It goes on display in October in the Adriatic port of
Ancona and depicts Magdalene bare breasted, wearing a
red robe and holding a transparent veil over her

It has been attributed to Giampietrino, a Leonardo
pupil whose work can be found in some of the world's
greatest museums, including Leningrad's Hermitage and
London's National Gallery.

But Pedretti, director of the Armand Hammer Centre for
Leonardo Studies at the University of California at
Los Angeles, suspects it may be much more.

"Because of the very high quality, I am inclined to
believe that it is much more than a supervision of the
student by the master," he told Reuters in a telephone
interview from his part-time home in Tuscany.

"I can't say for sure yet, but this is my position and
I am prepared to follow up with the whole process of
laboratory verification and the rest of it," the
77-year-old professor said, speaking in English.

Pedretti, co-curator of the exhibition of works by
Giampietrino and others, said the work "has the
character of a Giampietrino painting but is far beyond
his qualities".


The painting has been in private collections for
nearly all its recorded history in the past 100 years
or so.

A black-and-white photo of it was taken in the 1920s
in Vienna. It was last exhibited briefly in the United
States in 1949 and Pedretti recently tracked it down
to a private collector in Switzerland.

Pedretti, who has devoted most of his life to studying
Leonardo, is cautious but hopeful that his hunch will
prove correct.

He wants the painting to undergo an infrared
reflectogram, a technique for viewing the under
drawings and various paint stages of a painting using
cameras equipped with infrared-sensitive detectors.

Pedretti said if traces of sketches were found it
would be "extremely important" because Leonardo
sketches are very easy to identify.

"First of all, it still has to be examined in a
laboratory. I want to see a reflectogram and other
examinations. But one extraordinary thing is that it
is painted on an intact wood panel, just like the Mona
Lisa," he said.

The exhibition is called "Leonardo - Genius and Vision
in the Marche Region", after the area of Italy where
it will be held and which is home to the city of
Urbino, where Leonardo worked in briefly in 1502.

Its co-sponsors include the Italian Culture Ministry
and a Vatican foundation.

Leonardo is known to have collaborated with students
to complete some of his works. For example, one copy
of "Virgin of the Rocks" is believed to have been
painted jointly by Leonardo and Ambrogio De Predis.

If the Magadalene painting turns out to be of
Leonardo's hand, even if only partially, it would be
only one of a few by the master of a nude woman.
Another is "Leda and the Swan".

Pedretti said he had no personal agenda to suggest
that Leonardo may have had a major role in the

"I don't think I need to draw attention to myself at
my age. I'm just proposing this possibility in the
service of scholarship," he said.


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