A fake of Da Vinci's masterpiece known as the Hekking Mona Lisa was sold at Christie's Auction House in Paris on Friday. The painting fetched €2.9 million ($3.44 million). Auction organizers had estimated its price at between €200,000-€300,000.
Named after the former owner Raymond Hekking, the replica artwork is thought to have been painted in the early 17th century by an anonymous Italian artist.
In the 1960s, Hekking, an antique dealer based in southern France, passionately defended the painting as the real canvas by the famous Italian Renaissance painter, Leonardo da Vinci.
'Bought for 3 pounds'
"He would dedicate the rest of his career to proving that the work by Leonardo da Vinci was the one he had bought for £3, while the work in the Louvre was a copy," the auction house says on its website.
Pierre Etienne, international director of Old Master Paintings, has no doubt that "it is not the Mona Lisa, it is the Hekking Mona Lisa."
The world-famous Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1914, and Hekking was soon convinced the painting returned to the gallery was not really the original at all — the one in his possession was the real Mona Lisa, he claimed.
Fascination for the Mona Lisa
Improbable as it seemed, the art historical community took the claim seriously.
According to Christie's, Etienne has uncovered correspondence and articles written in French, English and Russian that were all willing to consider the claim that the painting might be the original.
Upon Hekking's death in 1977, the replica was passed on to his family who have decided to put it up for sale.
"This work and its history illustrate the fascination that the Mona Lisa and the aura of Leonardo da Vinci have always held," Christie's said.
Quoting Etienne, the auction house added that the replica "is not as compelling as the work in the Louvre but it conjures something of that world and, in a world of images, in which only the strongest ones stay in our mind, allows the dream to go on."
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