A lost Da Vinci Painting? Top art historian says maybe

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Move over, Mona Lisa. If Carlo Pedretti's hunch is right, the world may soon have another Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece to admire.

A stunningly beautiful painting called Mary Magdalene which the world-class art historian suspects may have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci together with one of his pupils will soon go on public view for the first time in more than half a century.

The painting, measuring 58 cm by 45 cm, was believed to have been painted in 1515, four years before the master died.

It goes on display in October in the Adriatic port of Ancona and depicts Magdalene bare breasted, wearing a red robe and holding a transparent veil over her belly.

It has been attributed to Giampietrino, a Leonardo pupil whose work can be found in some of the world's greatest museums, including Leningrad's Hermitage and London's National Gallery.

But Pedretti, director of the Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, suspects it may be much more.

"Because of the very high quality, I am inclined to believe that it is much more than a supervision of the student by the master," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from his part-time home in Tuscany.

"I can't say for sure yet, but this is my position and I am prepared to follow up with the whole process of laboratory verification and the rest of it," the 77-year-old professor said, speaking in English.

Pedretti, co-curator of the exhibition of works by Giampietrino and others, said the work "has the character of a Giampietrino painting but is far beyond his qualities".

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