Among the esteemed works of art hanging from the walls of Christie’s auction house in Paris, a famed replica could fetch over $300,000 next week.
“Hekking’s Mona Lisa” is named after its antique dealer owner Raymond Hekking, who acquired the painting in a small village in the Nice area of France.
So convinced he was of his painting’s authenticity, Hekking, who died in 1977, cast doubt on the original hanging in the Louvre in Paris.
He devoted all his energy to defending his version.
“He was an antique dealer in Nice, and it is a work which will obsess him completely, for which he will exercise a total fascination, and which he will defend with real conviction like the original work, like the Mona Lisa, which is really the authentic Mona Lisa, even challenging the Louvre to prove their version is the correct one,” explains Pierre Etienne, international director of Old Master Paintings at Christie’s Paris.
“This was the fight of Mr. Raymond Hekking’s life.”
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa entered France’s royal collection shortly after 1517. It’s one of the most recognizable images in the world.
Christie’s says several copies were made during the 17th century onwards, including Hekking’s, which is an early 17th century Italian copy.
The Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in the early 1900s. Hekking claimed the painting returned to the Paris museum was not the true Da Vinci work.
To the untrained eye, there are many similarities. But Hekking’s version, for instance, does not include two flanking columns either side of the subject, which feature in the original.
“The similarities, of course, come to everyone’s eyes as obvious. It’s a face we all know, it’s a posture we all know, it’s a smile we all know, it’s even a look we all know. The differences are more subtle, you have to go find them a little,” says Etienne.
“He removes the small, very discreet columns that are indeed present on the original panel of the Mona Lisa and, here, the artist erases them, he focuses on the female model, he concentrates on the Mona Lisa.”
“Hekking’s Mona Lisa” is being auctioned online, beginning on Friday, June 11, and concluding on June 18.
Another 17th-century Mona Lisa copy sold for $1.69 million at Sotheby’s in January 2019.
Christie’s estimates the “Hekking’s Mona Lisa” could fetch between 200,000 and 300,000 euros, approximately $240,000-$360,000 USD.
“Our job is to sell, but also to tell stories. And this one is really touching,” says Etienne.