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Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Mona Lisa smile.
DISPUTED DA VINCI

Leonardo da Vinci’s “only surviving sculpture” has been unveiled in Italy

By Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz

Leonardo da Vinci was rumored to have made sculptures, but until now there has been no existing three-dimensional work identified as his. Now, scholars believe that a sculpture formerly attributed to Antonio Rossellino was misattributed, and is actually a work from the Renaissance painter, reports the Guardian.

“The Virgin with the Laughing Child” has been a part of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum since 1858, and was credited to Rossellino by the influential late art historian and British Museum director John Pope-Hennessy. According to Francesco Caglioti, the Italian scholar curating a Florence exhibition in which the statue is featured, Pope-Hennessy had no evidence for the Rossellino ruling and often made such attributions “at his whim.”

Photograph: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Caglioti, an art history professor and prodigy who “made a catalog of the Louvre when he was eight,” per the Guardian, says that the sculpture has many of the telltale fingerprints of da Vinci: The Virgin Mary has the signature enigmatic smile, the fabric of her dress mimics drawings of folds and draperies that da Vinci was doing at the time, and the giggling, realistic baby Christ is standard da Vinci, whose drawings of children showed a similar attention to expression.

Da Vinci is thought to have created the terra-cotta sculpture around 1472 while working under the Italian master painter Andrea del Verrocchio. A da Vinci attribution was actually attempted in 1899, but the proposal was only reopened by Caglioti this week.

“The Virgin with the Laughing Child” joins the “nude Mona Lisa,” another mystery work that is thought to be a da Vinci. The charcoal drawing, known as the Monna Vanna, was originally thought to have been made by a student of da Vinci, but the Louvre believes that the Renaissance master himself is behind it.