It was first brought to auctioneer Harry Robertson, an expert at Sotheby's who assessed the work as a possible da Vinci. "I showed it to [Mr Robertson] and he was staggered, speechless save for a sigh of exclamation," she said, according to People (UK). The painting has since been viewed by a number of other specialists who have reiterated Robertson's sentiments, such as former Antiques Roadshow presenter Sebastian Times, an ex-director at Christie's in Scotland. Other experts, like Professor Carlo Pedretti of the University of California, believe that the painting is at the very least a work of the da Vinci school, possible created by one of his pupils.
There are a number of telltale signs in the McLaren family heirloom that point to da Vinci. For example, aspects of the figures' hairlines, shoulders and toes bare significant resemblance to other da Vinci characters and a fleur-de-lys hidden within the portrait is another typical detail oh his work. More concretely, experts have noted that the woman in the portrait is an exact match of a traced figure in the "Last Supper," which also bares resemblance to "Madonna of the Rocks." The work is also accompanied by a papal bull, an order from the pope that is attached to the back of the painting. It has been confirmed as belonging to Pope Paul V -- the head of the Catholic Church in the early 17th century.
Fiona has also conducted research, which she chronicled in a book titled "Da Vinci's Last Commission," and has made some assessments of her own. She thinks that the portrait is a depiction of Mary Magdalene and her son, not the Virgin and Jesus. She points to the fact that the woman is dressed in red and not the Virgin's signature blue, and notes in the text that the word "Magdalene" can be read on the papal bull. She believes that the da Vinci work would have been perceived as heretical at the time and so the painting's true meaning was concealed.
The painting's authenticity has yet to be solidified, but experts at the Hamilton Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge plan on conclusively dating the work by next year. With Da Vinci paintings generally fetching around £100 million, Fiona has on her website that she wants to give a portion of the hopeful sale to the Caterina Peace Foundation.