'Secrets of the Dead: The Mona Lisa Mystery' investigates the 'second,' Isleworth portrait

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In September 2012, a discovery was made that rocked the art world -- the existence of a second Mona Lisa.

But was it a real work by Leonardo da Vinci, a copy from the same era in the 1500s, or a clever forgery from ensuing centuries?

That question is examined in the "Secrets of the Dead" documentary "The Mona Lisa Mystery," premiering Wednesday, July 9, on PBS (check local listings).

The hour-long film examines the legitimacy of the recently discovered portrait from the perspectives of art historians, research physicists, restoration experts and forensic imaging specialists to get a handle on whether this painting did indeed come from the hand of the master.

The "new" painting, commonly referred to as the "Isleworth Mona Lisa" for the London studio where it resided for years in the 1900s, is an image of the same subject, 16th century silk merchant's wife Lisa del Giocondo, only at a younger age.

The film presents compelling evidence -- including carbon dating, and forensic and computer analysis -- that support the argument that the painting could be a work of da Vinci, but ultimately they can neither prove nor disprove its legitimacy.

"Authenticating these pieces of art is incredibly complex and incredibly political as well," executive producer and writer Martin Meszaros explains to Zap2it. "The Louvre Mona Lisa, of course, has been in the possession of the French state since the 1700s, officially ... . Just the fact that it has been in this official sphere for such a long time and in the possession of a world power, so to speak, makes it much easier to look at it as an authentic piece. When something just turns up hundreds of years later without leaving any trace from the centuries before that, it's really hard to authenticate something because obviously this is something that takes time.

"Probably in 50 years time, this will be common knowledge that it was or wasn't a second Mona Lisa," he continues. "The people who own this painting, if it turns out to be an original and the whole world agrees on that, I don't know what the value of it would be but it would be in the hundreds of millions. And so this makes it very complicated because there are a lot of interests that are reflected in this discussion."
Photo/Video credit: PBS