Lot 171
  • 171


80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Mona Lisa
  • oil on canvas, unframed
  • 29 by 21 in.; 73.5 by 53.3 cm. 


Said to have descended in the noble Pistoj family for more than 260 years;
With Dr. Umberto Gianesi, Galleria Fiorentina d'Arte, Florence, by the mid-twentieth century;
From whom acquired by a private collector, Venezuela, 1959;
Thence by descent in the family.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work on canvas has an old European glue lining. The painting has not been recently varnished, and it is quite dull. The paint layer is noticeably dirty. However, the picture may have been copied from the original, which would have been yellowed at the time. Therefore, there may be an original glaze applied to recreate the antique feeling of the original work. It is difficult to identify retouches under ultraviolet light in many areas, as the old varnish is opaque. Although there are some slightly darker patches, many of these areas do not seem to correspond to retouches. There are a few dots of retouching in the shadowed side of the cheek on the right, and a few dots in the dark coat in the shadowed side of the sleeve in the lower right, beneath the hands, and above the elbow on the far left side. Although there may be other older retouches, the condition generally seems to be very good. The work would respond well to light cleaning and a saturating varnish, and may not need any further restoration.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This image, among the most recognizable in the world, finds its source in Leonardo da Vinci's iconic portrait in the Louvre, The Mona Lisa, thought to depict Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the Florentine silk merchant Francesco Giocondo.1  That original, painted on a poplar panel, was a mature work by Leonardo that represented the culmination of his artistic achievements.  It went with him to France around 1517 and likely entered the collection of François I soon after.  In the centuries to follow, while it was in the Royal Collection, many replicas of that painting were made.  The present canvas—which preserves the captivating impression, the soft atmospheric haze, and the enigmatic smile of Leonardo’s model—is of a high-quality and was likely painted during the seventeenth century.  Although the modern-day fame surrounding the Mona Lisa today did not arise until the twentieth century, the painting long served as an illustrious model of the Renaissance ideal from a very early age.  The numerous copies made after it are a testament to its timeless appeal.  Some of the earliest known copies include the panel in the Prado museum, which is thought to have arisen in Leonardo's workshop. Some copies, like the version in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, record the vestigial columns that were removed from the original composition at an early stage.3  Another example can be found in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.4

A note on the provenance

It is believed that this work hails from the collection of the Pistoj family, an old aristocratic family from the city of Pistoia that dates back to the fourteenth century.  From their noble lineage arose a number of prominent intellectuals, diplomats, civic officials, military officers, and magistrates, and they remained preeminent in Tuscany well into the 19th century.  It is said that the present work remained in that family for over 260 years until the passing of the last descendant.  

1. Oil on poplar panel, 77 by 53 cm., inv. no. 779.

2. Oil on walnut panel, 76.3 by 57 cm., inv. no. P000504. 

3. Oil on canvas, 79.3 by 63.5 cm., inv. no. 37.1158.

4. Oil on poplar panel, 82 by 56.5 cm., inv. no. WAG2785.