It might be a da Vinci portrait of a 15th-century noblewoman. Or it might be a fake featuring a modern-day cashier named Sally. Or perhaps neither. Whatever the truth, a forger's "astonishing" claim in Britain has the art world buzzing, reports the Art Newspaper. The claim comes from Shaun Greenhalgh in his new memoir, written while he was serving time for a host of forgeries, as first reported in the Sunday Times of London. He says that a drawing attributed to da Vinci called La Bella Principessa was actually done by him. “I drew this picture in 1978 when I worked at the Co-op," he writes. "The ‘sitter’ was based on a girl called Sally who worked on the checkouts. ... She was a bossy little bugger and very self-important.” The painting is currently in the hands of a private collector and would be worth an estimated $150 million if it is, in fact, a da Vinci.
Greenhalgh, though, claims he concocted special pigments and found old material for the canvas to fool the experts. But to make matters a bit more confusing, the Telegraph notes that lab tests suggest the painting is about 250 years old, which would mean neither da Vinci nor Greenhalgh created it. The only thing for certain, argues Jonathan Jones at the Guardian, is that this is not a da Vinci—despite an Oxford art historian's assertion to the contrary in 2008. "There is a deadness to this woman’s eye, a coldness to the way she is posed and drawn that has no resemblance to Leonardo da Vinci’s energy or vitality," writes Jones. "This is a bad artist's impression of the Leonardo style." (A scientist unlocked some secrets about an unquestionably legit da Vinci painting.)