The woman with a bald forehead

One unhappy day I was called to see the ‘Benois Madonna’. I found myself confronted by a young woman with a bald forehead and puffed cheeks, a toothless smile, blear eyes, and a furrowed throat. The uncanny, anile apparition plays with a child who looks like a hollow mask fixed on inflated body and limbs. The hands are wretched, the folds purposeless and fussy, the color like whey. And yet I had to acknowledge that this painful affair was the work of Leonardo da Vinci. It was hard, but the effort freed me, and the indignation I felt gave me the resolution to proclaim my freedom. Bernard Berenson (1865-1959)

Clockwise: Ginevra de’ Benci, The Annunciation, Benois Madonna, Madonna of the Carnatio

The four heads shown above were painted by Leonardo da Vinci. All have what can be termed as a ‘high-forehead’. Could the woman in all four paintings be one and the same person at different stages in her life? If so, could she even be the enigmatic woman known as the Mona Lisa or Gioconda?

detail from The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, Louvre, Paris