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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/11/16

The Mona Lisa is much older than thought

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A union between Leonardo's 1478 'View of the Valdinievole' and his Mona Lisa reputed to have been painted in 1503-5.
A union between Leonardo's 1478 'View of the Valdinievole' and his Mona Lisa reputed to have been painted in 1503-5.
(Image by Angelo Paratico)
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Antonio De Beatis kept a diary during his grand tour of Europe, started on 9 May 1517 together with his superior, Cardinal Luigi D'Aragona, a bastard with royal blood.The two men were back in Rome by January 1518.

The reason for such a long absence from Rome is to be found in the fact the Cardinal was under suspicion of being an accomplice in a plot to kill Pope Leo X, staged by the Sienese Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci, who was arrested and strangled in St. Angelo's Castle on 4 July 1517.

The Cardinal was well known in Rome and Naples for being a great lover of the arts, of the good life and beautiful women, thus we should think that the two travellers had some good time going around Europe, visiting historical places and meeting important people while in Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. They met Emperor Charles V a Middelburg, Jacob Fugger at Augusta and King Francis I at Rouen.

They also met Leonardo Da Vinci(1452-1519) in his workshop at Clos Lucà , in Amboise on 10 October 1517.

Antonio De Beatis was a simple priest, a personal assistant and butler to the Cardinal, who never thought about publishing his notes but, because of this, they were written with great candor.

By 1873 the diary of De Beatis was still gathering dust on a shelf at the Vittorio Emanuele Library in Naples, where it was spotted by the German historian Ludwig von Pastor (1854-1925) who, understanding its great historical importance, published a first critical edition in 1905, collating the two versions available. The first English version was published by the Hakluyt Society in 1979 and since then has become a must-read-book for all the people interested in Leonardo Da Vinci.

Here is what De Beatis wrote while meeting 'Messer Lunardo Vinci fiorentino pictore in la et nostra' (the excellent painter of our age, mister Leonardo Vinci) who then described to the awed visitors the three pictures hanging there:

"Mr Lunardo Vinci fiorentino, uecchio de pià di LX anni, pictore in la et nostra quale mostrà a s. tre quatri, uno di certa dona fiorentina facta di naturale facto ad istanza del quondam Jiuliano de Medici"

(Mr. Leonardo Vinci Florentine, older than 60 years, excellent painter of our age, who did show to his highness three pictures, a portrait of a Florentine lady on demand of the defunct magnificent Julian de' Medici").

The portrait of the Florentine lady to which he is making reference to is certainly the Mona Lisa but his utterance has caused interpretative problems. Monna Lisa di Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini del Giocondo, born on 15 June 1479, may have nothing to do with the quondam Magnifico Giuliano, Leonardo's patron Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and brother of Pope Leo X, who had died on 1516 after having lived in exile from Florence from the 19 November 1494 up to 1 September 1512.

But are we sure that Leonardo Da Vinci was referring to Giuliano de' Medici junior, the Duke of Nemours? This is something which had been blindly accepted by all Leonardo's experts who had never taken into consideration the possibility that Leonardo was making a reference to his uncle, Giuliano di Piero de' Medici, the brother of Lorenzo de' Medici.

Giuliano senior had been murdered on Sunday, 26 April 1478, while attending a Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, stabbed 19 times by Franceschino Pazzi and Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, acting with the support of the Pope.

Our novel interpretation could change all current views on the Mona Lisa and open unexplored paths. Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo was not born yet when Giuliano senior died and, almost exactly one month after his murder, a son was born to him, while also his mother died at childbirth. On 26 May 1478 his posthumous son was baptised, receiving the name of Giulio, in the presence of Antonio da Sangallo, a friend of the defunct Giuliano who was following the instructions received by Giuliano's brother, the Magnificent Lorenzo de' Medici. The infant was destined to a brilliant career: in 1523 Giulio de' Medici was elected Pope with the name of Clement VII and Machiavelli dedicated his Istorie Fiorentine to him.

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