Researchers studying fading frescoes in a Florence convent building have found what may have been the workshop where Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.
The rooms, on the upper floors of a building shared by Florence’s Institute of Military Geography and the Santissima Annunziata Monastery, contain frescoes of birds in flight that could be attributable to Leonardo’s school, Alessandro Vezzosi, director of a Leonardo museum near Florence, said today.
“The researchers made the hypothesis that these were the rooms where Leonardo and his pupils worked,” he said of the discovery.
Though there is still uncertainty about who painted the frescoes that adorn the walls of the rooms, “these studies might be able to tell us more about the environment in which Leonardo lived,” said Vezzosi.
For example, he said that Leonardo could have conceived or completed an early version of the Mona Lisa in the workshop, since the family of the probable subject of the painting, Lisa Gherardini, had links with the monastery to which the rooms belonged.
Leonardo arrived in Florence in 1500 and likely stayed in the rooms between 1500-1503, Vezzosi said. According to Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo was taken in at the convent around that time with the convent paying expenses for him and his assistants.
It’s not that the rooms were unknown – but the key may be the frescoes, which had not been studied carefully before.
“For the first time in this case we see birds which are absolutely dynamic, animals which are absolutely vivid and remind us of the study done by Leonardo of birds in flight,” said researcher Roberto Manescalchi.
Also in the rooms, which are not open to the public, is an outline of a kneeling angel similar Leonardo’s Annunciation, which hangs in Florence’s Uffizi museum.
Frescoes of animals attributed to the Renaissance artist Vittorio da Feltre, who according to Vasari arrived in Florence in the early 1500s to visit Michelangelo and Leonardo, were also found at the site.
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