Leonardo da Vinci secret: Mona Lisa’s hidden detail discovered by high-tech camera

Leonardo da Vinci secret: Mona Lisa’s hidden detail discovered by high-tech camera

The early 16th Century painting is arguably one of da Vinci’s most famous works and currently resides in the Louvre, in Paris. It’s estimated that 80 percent of their annual 10.2 million visitors attend to see the Mona Lisa. Scientist Pascal Cotte was asked to digitise the painting using a specialist camera, which was able to capture hidden layers beneath the portrait. From his multispectral analysis, he discovered a number of surprising details that could shatter previously held beliefs about the remarkable work. 

Mr Cotte spent a decade analysing more than 1,650 images, which give intricate insight into the Mona Lisa and how da Vinci was able to create it.

He used his pioneering Layer Amplification Method (LAM) on images taken by a multispectral camera that was able to detect light reflected on 13 wavelengths – to capture the interaction between light and matter.

In the layers, he discovered a technique called spolvero had been used, which would have allowed the Italian Renaissance painter to transfer a sketch to his wooden canvas using charcoal dust.

The markings, which suggest the piece was not entirely freehand, had been discovered in other da Vinci works too. 

Beneath the Mona Lisa, spolvero marks were found along the hairline and the hand, although that is not the only thing he discovered.

Just to the right of her forehead he noticed what appeared to be the top of a hairpin – a small detail that presents more questions about the work.

Mr Cotte told Express.co.uk: “This hairpin in the sky just to the right of Mona Lisa’s head cannot belong to a portrait of a person because in the city of Florence this was not the fashion at the time.

“People had to be dressed in certain ways to denote their profession and for nobility respecting the colours.

“It is not possible for Mona Lisa to have hair like this, it was impossible of the time in the city of Florence.”

Mr Cotte claims this type of hairpin is more typically used for an “unreal woman like a Goddess”, as an allegory for justice or goodness, or in a painting of the Virgin Mary.

The reason for the hairpin, which was marked freehand in charcoal, will remain a mystery but it is speculated that it could have been part of another project entirely. 

Mr Cotte suspects two previous works could have preceded the final Mona Lisa observed by the public today. 

The spolvero marks along the forehead reveal that da Vinci did change the position of the woman’s head and her hand.

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He told Express.co.uk: “He changed the position of the head to make her look right at you, like a mother and everybody has a mother so can share and feel emotion while looking at the portrait.”

The spolvero technique is a “very fast way to make a portrait” and it’s known that da Vinci’s time was under great demand at that point in his life. 

Mr Cotte believes the discoveries “will probably change the way people look at the Mona Lisa”.

He told Express.co.uk: “These discoveries increase and increase the mystery of its creation, in the end we understand that it is the work of a very long ‘creative act’ – which spans more than a decade and in several stages. 

“And then, the public’s curiosity is sometimes so strong that they may wonder if it is not possible to guess the hidden portrait by going to see her at the Louvre.” 

Mr Pascal claims to have made 150 discoveries about the Mona Lisa, which he detailed in his 2015 book ‘Lumiere on The Mona Lisa: Hidden Portraits’, using his LAM technique.

He added: “I feel very proud because nobody paid me to do this, I made my discoveries thanks to my own passion for science. 

“To have discovered these new elements and to formulate a solid hypothesis took a long time and I am very happy with that.”

Published at Thu, 24 Sep 2020 15:45:00 +0000