What Did Raphael Have To Do With The Isleworth Mona Lisa?

woman in art gallery

There is a lot of mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Some people believe that the painting was a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. This theory has been backed up by recent evidence from infrared scans of the painting. But what if I told you that there was another Mona Lisa? This Mona Lisa is known now as the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

Who Is Leonardo Da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, and writer. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters and perhaps the most diversely talented person to have lived. His work included painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering, anatomy, and botany. His famous paintings include the Louvre Mona Lisa, the Isleworth Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper.

What Is The Isleworth Mona Lisa?

The Isleworth Mona Lisa is a painting of the same subject as Leonardo da Vinci’s Louvre Mona Lisa. The painting was discovered in 1913 by Hugh Blaker, an English art dealer. It was bought from him in 1918 by Henry F. Pulitzer, who took it to the United States. Since then, the painting has been owned by several people and currently resides with a private collector.

Who Is Raphael?

Raphael is an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. He was born in 1483 and died in 1520, meaning he would have been alive when Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. He was an intern of da Vinci’s. His work with Da Vinci included painting the Stanza Della Segnatura in the Vatican, and he also helped with the painting of the Sistine Chapel.

How Did Raphael and Da Vinci Meet?

Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci met four years after Raphael had begun his apprenticeship with Perugino. Da Vinci was already an established artist at the time, while Raphael was still a student. Raphael quickly became one of Da Vinci’s favorite students, and they remained friends until Da Vinci’s death in 1519.

Raphael’s Infamous Sketch

In 1504, influenced by the notorious Isleworth Mona Lisa, Raphael sketched a portrait of a woman on a balcony. This sketch was entitled “Young Woman On A Balcony.” The sketch is currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Similarities Between The Sketch And The Isleworth Mona Lisa

There are many similarities between Raphael’s sketch and the Isleworth Mona Lisa. Both women have the same hairstyle, both are wearing jewelry, and both have a similar pose. Even the landscapes in the background are similar.

Hand Positioning

One of the most exciting similarities is the positioning of the hands. In both portraits, the woman’s right hand is positioned in front of her left breast.

The Smile

The most iconic aspect of the Mona Lisa is her smile. The Isleworth Mona Lisa also has a faint smile, although it is not as pronounced as the one in Leonardo da Vinci’s Louvre Mona Lisa.

The Background

Perhaps the most striking similarity is in the background. In both portraits, there is a river with mountains in the distance.

Differences Between The Sketch And The Isleworth Mona Lisa

However, there are also some differences between the two portraits. The woman in Raphael’s sketch is much younger than the woman in the Isleworth Mona Lisa. The woman in the sketch also looks directly at the viewer, while the woman in the Isleworth Mona Lisa has a mysterious smile and seems to be looking off into the distance.


Another difference is in the woman’s garment. The woman in Raphael’s sketch is wearing a simple dress, while the woman in the Isleworth Mona Lisa is wearing a more ornate dress with a lace collar. Also, the garment is higher on the bust. This suggests that the woman in the Isleworth Mona Lisa is more wealthy than the woman in Raphael’s sketch.

Two Columns vs. Three Columns

In Raphael’s sketch, two columns are flanking the subject. In the Isleworth Mona Lisa, there are three columns. This suggests that the woman in the Isleworth Mona Lisa is of a higher social class than the woman in Raphael’s sketch.

Why Is The Sketch Important?

The sketch that Raphael created of the “Young Woman On A Balcony,” is important because it likely spawned numerous copies that are still being revered around the world in different museums and private collections. But it also likely inspired later renaissance artists to follow and experiment with new and innovative compositions in their own works. 

The sketch was derived from the Isleworth Mona Lisa, the one Da Vinci was working on at the time of Raphael’s visit. He used the modern three-quarter pose in the sketch, with the head tilted slightly forward and the eyes pointed at the viewer of the sketch. The hands were posed in modesty, and the apparent youthfulness strongly suggests its inspiration from the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

Final Thoughts

So, what did Raphael have to do with the Isleworth Mona Lisa? The painting influenced him. Whether or not he had anything to do with its original creation is still a mystery. But one thing is for sure, the similarities between the two portraits are striking.

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