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I rather thought you might like this…

1: Mona Lisa by Leonardo, in the Louvre, dated 1512 2: Mona Lisa by Salai, in the Prado, dated 1512 3: Portrait of a lady attributed to the young Hans Holbein, dated 1509 4. Portrait of a Lady Saint, also by Holbein, dated 1509 5. Sketch of an unknown lady by Holbein, labelled Lisa Binzenstuck, dated 1518 6: Solothurn Madonna, by Holbein dated 1522, but clearly based on the previous sketch of 4 years before. 7: Melzi 'Columbina' 1518, like all the others identified by the artist as 'Lisa' 8: The Artist's Family by Holbein, dated 1528, when Lisa would have been 35. 9. Lady Mary Guildford, by Holbein, which despite the year engraved on the architrave, is dated by the artist as 1535, when Lisa would have been 42.

1: Mona Lisa by Leonardo, in the Louvre, dated 1512
2: Mona Lisa by Salai, in the Prado, dated 1512
3: Portrait of a lady attributed to the young ‘Hans Holbein’, dated 1509
4. Portrait of a Lady Saint, also by ‘Holbein’, dated 1509
5. Sketch of an unknown lady by ‘Holbein’, labelled Lisa Binzenstuck, dated 1518
6: Solothurn Madonna, by ‘Holbein’ dated 1522, but clearly based on the previous sketch of 4 years before.
7: Melzi ‘Columbina’ 1518, like all the others identified by the artist as ‘Lisa’
8: The Artist’s Family by Holbein, dated 1528, when Lisa would have been 35.
9. Lady Mary Guildford, by Holbein, which despite the year engraved on the architrave, is dated by the artist as 1535, when Lisa would have been 42.

In 1509 numerous sources suggest that Leonardo had to move his studio in a great hurry, and indeed he then vanished from the history books for four whole years.

Michelangelo’s nephew Iohannes had been murdered just the year before, after his romantic attachment to Felice della Rovere had been discovered by Felice’s husband. And then in 1509, Iohannes’ brother Edoardo met the same fate, from the same man, Prince of the Church Gian Giordano Orsini. His Holiness Julius II, who was famed for his predilection for very young men, was looking for someone new, and had his eye set on young Salai, in Leonardo’s studio, and so it was that he and Leonardo’s slave Ali were invited to attend celebrations on May 16th, after the catastrophic defeat of Julius’ enemy Venice. At some point in the proceedings, Ali felt compelled to defend Salai (aged only 11), from His Holiness’ unwelcome interest. Julius was mutilated, and Leonardo, Salai, Ali, and several others were forced to leave Italy most urgently, and for the furthest destination possible. Ali recorded these events on the back of a page of Leonardo’s notes, in a drawing regarded until now as a bit of obscene graffiti; and it was secretly confirmed in paintings by both Raphael and Michelangelo.

With the group went a young lady by the name of Elsbeth – at least that was what she was called when she was in Germany. In Italy she was known as Elisabetta, or Lisa for short. That same year Salai sketched and painted Lisa, who, it seems, was born in 1493, and had the hots for Ali. Alas, after his valiant rescue, Salai also had a crush on the valiant young slave, so things were a little tense, and Salai’s depictions of the girl in that year ((3) and (4) above), are a little unflattering. By 1512, though, the girl had begun to blossom, and both Leonardo and Salai used her as a model for their respective versions of the famous lady seen in images (1) and (2).

In 1513, with the death of Julius, the group returned to Rome, guests now of a friendly Pope, and over the years Lisa came to be painted several times more, both by Salai/Holbein – and Leonardo’s other apprentice – Melzi (7). Salai (now using the name Holbein) eventually married Lisa, and she began having his children, but in June 1523, he married again, bigamously, in Italy, to Bianca Coldiroli, and having taken charge of a very large dowry, faked his death (it being alleged that he died from a wound from a crossbow bolt) in January 1524. After this he moved north, and stuck to his northern European avatar of ‘Holbain’, which to begin with at least, he spelt in the Italian, not the German way. His poor wife Lisa was heartbroken, though, and her pain can still be seen in his portrait of her in 1528 (8), a pain that seemed to turn to a certain hardness and resignation after her abandonment (9).

Naturally he took his version of the Mona Lisa with him… and it became embroiled in the horrendous politics of King Henry’s court, around the time that queens started having their heads chopped off. But that, and how it came to be overpainted in black paint, is another story.

More on all this, though, if you wish, in some of the featured stories in the side bar!