A NUDE drawing which looks very much like the famous Mona Lisa could have been done by Leonardo da Vinci, it has been revealed.
Scientists at the Louvre in Paris today explained they think “the drawing is at least in part” by the mastermind himself.
The charcoal drawing, known as the “Monna Vanna”, has been undergoing tests for a month in the gallery.
The large etching has been held as part of the huge collection of Renaissance art at the Conde Museum at the palace of Chantily, north of the French capital, since 1862.
Curator Mathiru Deldicque told AFP: “The drawing has a quality in the way the face and hands are rendered that is truly remarkable. It is not a pale copy.
“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 drawing is almost the same size as the famous painting and small holes around the figure suggest it may have been used to trace the form onto a canvas.
Although the eager speculation continues, Louvre conservation expert Bruno Mottin said “we must remain prudent” about attributing it to the artist who died in 1519.
He said: “The hatching on the top of the drawing near the head was done by a right-handed person. Leonardo drew with his left hand.
“It is a job that is going to take some time.
“It is a very difficult drawing to work on because it is particularly fragile.”
He added they hoped to crack the case and find out who had created the drawing within two years.
About 20 paintings and drawings of nude Mona Lisas have been catalogued in collections around the world but many have been hard to correctly date.