Mona Lisa: have French art experts discovered a topless sketch of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous subject?

It’s an old charcoal sketch that has been sitting around in a private art collection for more than 150 years.

But French art experts recently got their hands on the early 16th Century image of a topless woman.

And gave it a good, close look.

Long believed to have been sketched by one of Leonardo da Vinci’s students, tests at the Louvre Museum in Paris now indicate the image is “at least in part” drawn by the famous inventor and artist himself.

And it’s likely to be of the famous Mona Lisa.

“The drawing has a quality in the way the face and hands are rendered that is truly remarkable,” curator Mathieu Deldicque told French media.

But the ruling is based on more than a feeling.

Telltale similarities between his famous painting and the sketch reveal da Vinci’s hand.

The positioning of the hands and body are almost an identical match. And the portraits are almost the exact same size.

Puncture marks about its edges also suggest it may have been placed on a canvas for its outline to be traced.

“It is not a pale copy,” Deldicque said. “We are looking at something which was worked on in parallel with the Mona Lisa at the end of Leonardo’s life.

“It is almost certainly a preparatory work for an oil painting.”

The Mona Lisa was commissioned by an cloth merchant and official of Florence Francesco del Giocondo. It was to be a portrait of his wife.

It became one of the world’s most recognisable works of art.

But experts remain uncertain about the extent of da Vinci’s influence on the topless sketch.

Some of the strokes appear to have been done by a right-handed person. Da Vinci was famously left-handed.

“We must remain prudent,” Deldicque told AFP of ongoing investigations. “It is job that is going to take some time,” he said. “It is a very difficult drawing to work on because it is particularly fragile.”

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