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It is known that c.1499-1500 Leonardo visited Venice via Mantua, on his return to Florence after his sojourn in Milan.

In Mantua, he would likely have met with Andrea Mantegna, the Court Painter for Isabella d’Este at that time.

Mantegna was a great exponent of painting on canvas, and might well have influenced Leonardo.

As with the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’, these canvasses of course were also naturally hand-woven.

Historical Context The turn of the 16th Century marked a significant period of transition in the use of artists’ materials.

Knowledge about the use of new media from advanced Flemish and Venetian masters was becoming more widespread.

Oil and artificial pigments were starting to become popular: in fact Leonardo was using oil as a binder and medium as far back as his time as a student of Verrocchio.

Up to the 16th Century, wood was the most popular support for painting, and prior to 1470 almost nothing of importance in Western art was painted on canvas.

Leonardo’s ‘’ on the other hand, was painted on poplar, a wood more frequently found in Lombardy than Tuscany.

Canvas was, by 1500, already in use by painters in Italy.

The main characteristics of the linen canvas used for the earlier version portrait were straightforward: plain tabby weaves with an average thread count of 18 threads per cm warp, and 16 threads per cm weft, crossing each other of course, and with some variations in thickness.

The result is a warp that is slightly tighter than the weft.

That Leonardo would choose available canvas instead of a wood panel upon which to paint a portrait is really not that surprising.

One of the major criticisms put forward against the Leonardo attribution of the ‘ Leonardo had Worked on Canvas Leonardo executed a number of works on canvas while working under Verrocchio in the 1470s.


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