The numerous contemporaneous, or near contemporaneous, copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa demonstrate that this enigmatic work has attracted keen interest from the outset.
A number of these early copies have made auction appearances in recent years including the Hekking Mona Lisa sold by Christie’s Paris in June for a hammer price of €2.4m (£2.07m).
Another topped the bill at Artcurial’s (25/20/14% buyer’s premium) latest sale of Old Master and 19th century paintings in Paris on November 9.
The 2ft 5in x 20in (74x 52cm) oil on panel, catalogued as French school c.1600, was purchased by a European collector for €210,000, (£181,035) just over the upper end of a €150,000-200,000 guide.
Making considerably more than its €50,000-70,000 estimate at €135,000 (£116,380) was the head and shoulders portrait of a man also pictured here.
This 20 x 18½in (51 x 47cm) work, painted in oil on paper laid on canvas, has a possible provenance to the Comte de Houdetot and to his sale at the Hôtel Drouot in 1859. It was then in the collections of Renaud Icard and that of Pierre Dubeau and Jacqueline Bellonte, Paris, whose wax stamp is on the verso.
For a long time the painting was thought to be a study by Théodore Géricault for one of the figures in his monumental canvas The Raft of the Medusa but recent research has reattributed it to another artist of this period, François-Auguste Biard (1799-1882).
In 1827 Biard enlisted as a painting teacher on board the corvette Bayardere. He sailed around the Mediterranean basin and at the end of his journey landed on the African coast where for the very first time he witnessed the trade in human beings. Slavery and the slave trade were recurring themes in his work.
From 1835 until 1860 when he returned from Brazil, the artist exhibited numerous paintings at the Paris Salon denouncing this practice.
His paintings on this subject include one that illustrates the abolition of slavery in the French colonies on April 27, 1848, and the work offered at Artcurial is probably a preliminary sketch.
A second study showing the same model in a white shirt with a pair of symbolically open handcuffs at his side is in a private collection.
The painting was bought at the Artcurial auction by an unnamed museum.
£1 = €1.16