The Mystery da Vinci – Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene?

Lost Da Vinci
ArtBooks 5 Comments

Have you cleaned your closet or attic lately? Did you happen to find a painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci laying next to your trunk of old family memorabilia? No? Well this is exactly what happened to Fiona McLaren. In the 1960’s Fiona’s father, George McLaren, was given a painting as a gift from one of his patients, which was kept at the McLaren home in Scotland and where the painting has remained for the past 50 years. Not thinking much of the painting all of these years, but having fallen on some difficult financial times, Fiona decided to take the piece to Sotheby’s for an appraisal. And it’s a good thing she did, the painting is believed to be a 500-year-old work by Leonardo da Vinci, and could be worth $150 million dollars if authenticated.

Currently, the painting is being analyzed at the Hamilton Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge, where they are attempting to uncover the work’s exact age and origin. There has been some controversy regarding who is depicted in the painting. Some experts have suggested that the woman in the portrait resembles two very well known biblical Mary’s. One camp sees a resemblance to da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Rocks“, otherwise known as the Virgin Mary. The other camp sees a likeness to a traced figure in  da Vinci’s “Last Supper,”alluding to Mary Magdalene.

Adding fuel to the latter theory, a papal bull (type of letter or charter issued by a Pope), originated from Pope Paul V in the early 17th century, was found attached to the back of the painting. According to Ms. McLaren, the word “Magdalene” was visible on the paper, lending credence to the theory that the woman in the painting may actually be Mary Magdalene. This is what Ms. McLaren believes and has documented it in her book, da Vinci’s Last Commission, which chronicles her personal journey in solving the mystery of the painting as well as her own assessments about the portrait. Oh the scandal!

According to the experts at the University of Cambridge, they expect to have the painting’s authentication resolved in about a year, but it is unlikely they will ever confirm whether it is the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene in the portrait. A mystery that will forever be controversial. Ms. McLaren hopes to sell the painting to a museum, and plans to donate a percentage of the profits to charity. We on the other hand will be scrounging around our homes looking for our own masterpieces.

About Fiona McLaren
Fiona McLaren was a registered nurse until she switched her career path to the advertising and marketing industry. In the 1980’s she became passionate about the environment, inspiring her to become a writer/reporter. She relocated from Scotland to the south of France in the 1990’s where she continues to work as a researcher for television.

  • Anne

    AH – The DaVinci Code all over again!

  • Elisa

    Better than winning the lottery! The story behind the painting is awe-inspiring. 🙂

  • Duane Davis

    The article states: “[The item] is believed to be a 500-year-old work by Leonardo da Vinci, and could be worth $150 million dollars if authenticated.” And so how much will the government get out of this if the museum pays the woman for her find? And why in hell should the government get ANYTHING? It’s a stinking system!

  • Dana

    Sorry, but no real expert say that there is Mare Magdalene in the Last Supper. Writers of sensationalistic books are not experts in old art. Reality check: it was common in Florentine school to which the Last Supper belongs to show John as a very young man, and very young men were depicted as looking close as efemminated. It was common, in variety of subjects, and Leonardo wasn’t the only one in this, this is a well known fact. As for Mary Magdalene: no real expert will even think about this painting as showing Mary Magdalene, but identify the people right away as Virgin Mary with Jesus and John the Baptist, is so obvious, nothing unusual in the history of painting. In addition there are the emblems of two boys: the lamb for Jesus, and John is holding his typical emblem- the cross. No self respecting expert would risk ridicule to misinterpret the subject so badly, specially when it is so obvious, as it would be a sign of true incompetence. Maybe some antique dealers who knows nothing about old paintings would say that, but not a true expert. If people would attribute paintings such way, by ignoring what we already know very well in art history, every woman in any painting would be Mary Magdalene at a whim.

  • Betty Greiser

    Why is there a faint picture of a cat? On her boob…. Take a look at the nipple, two faint eyes above it