"lost" da vinci drawing: real? fake? misattributed?

what are your opinions on this piece?

i caught last night’s NOVA discussing it, tho as an artist i had already heard.

my personal stance is it’s probably not a forgery but not a da vinci either. the evidence paints that picture so long as you are coming at it from that frame of mind. but the evidence alone doesn’t mean HE had to do it.

i believe it’s from the old book and was drawn as a frontispiece, probably from the renaissance time period, but there’s no reason to think it was da vinci.

i do not think it looks like his work. it’s more naturalistic and lacks his stylistic freedoms.


The face looks kinda 19th century German, so I can see the confusion, but maybe she was simply a very pretty girl. I like the needlework on her shoulder. It’s clearer in the magazine and is totally Leonardo, but Wife is the (actually trained) art historian.

ETA: Saying that, there is no reason to assume that Leonardo, or any ONE artist, worked on it. “Tony, I did the hard parts but I’m going to lunch. Finish it up,” was how things worked.

If it weren’t for one of his patrons I’d suggest he jobbed out parts of it to his apprentices, but the Boss should get the real deal.


i agree it looks much more northern renaissance than of the italian ilk.

if someone said it was a Holbein, i’d get on board. but this whole thing started with “wouldn’t it be great if it were by da vinci!!” and then they set out to find evidence of that. they didn’t find evidence it was da vinci THEN decide it might be. they did it backwards.

None of the original arguments in favour of the attribution seemed to me to be especially convincing and the counter-suggestion that it was by Schnorr actually looked rather promising. But then Martin Kemp came up with the argument that it’s from the Warsaw copy of the Sforziad.

That does need to be taken seriously. For while it’s obvious enough that a forger could have cut out a blank folio from an old manuscript, such a forger is unlikely to have assumed that anyone would ever link it to a specific manuscript connected to the putative sitter. There would have been little point in them being quite that clever if the chances were that no one would ever spot this. Especially if this was a nineteenth-century forgery, when checks of that sort would have been even more difficult to do.

That said, the absence of a decorative border does trouble me.

Except that it’s a drawing (in chalk, ink and wash), so it wouldn’t have been especially time-consuming.

Not that any of this need mean that it’s by Leonardo himself. And that’s where the current London Leonardo blockbuster - which is as astonishing as everyone says it is - throws everything up into the air. For the very complex game of attribution and de-attribution being played by the National Gallery is as much about Leonardo’s assistants as it is about Leonardo himself. And although the National Gallery takes the maximum view of his output, thereby tending to downgrade the assistants, that is hardly the last word on the subject. Indeed, this is probably the worst possible moment to expect much of a concensus from art historians about Leonardo attributions, as they’ll be arguing over the implications of the London exhibitions for years to come. And, frankly, La Bella Principessa has seemed rather old news ever since the possible re-emergence of the Salvator Mundi