Mona Lisa discovery: scientist claims secret, second portrait of ‘real’ Mona Lisa lies underneath painting

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MONA LISA CREDIT: AFP GETTY IMAGES
by Alice Vincent, arts writer

Was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa actually not another Lisa Gherardini? That is the question which has divided the art world this week after French scientist Pascal Cotte revealed the findings of a decade’s worth of work: that there is a painting underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa of a totally different woman.

Leonardo’s famous portrait has long been thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant. It is thought the Renaissance master painted it between 1503 and 1517 while he worked in Florence, and then later in France.

However, Cotte has used Layer Amplification Method (LAM), a process of projecting a series of intense lights on to the painting and measuring their reflections to see how it was created.

Cotte, a LAM pioneer, explained in the BBC Two documentary The Secrets of the Mona Lisa: “We can now analyse exactly what is happening inside the layers of the paint and we can peel like an onion all the layers of the painting. We can reconstruct all the chronology of the creation of the painting.”

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Is this the real Mona Lisa? The reconstructed image by Pascal Cotte CREDIT: BBC

After reconstructing the layers found underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa, Cotte said: “I was in front of the portrait and she is totally different to Mona Lisa today. This is not the same woman.”

Instead of the front-on gaze of the Mona Lisa, this hidden portrait shows a woman looking off to the side. Cotte also claims the secret sitter has a larger head and nose, bigger hands and, importantly, smaller lips than those used for the famous Mona Lisa smile.

The change in sitter could be the key to a totally different history behind the portrait. Andrew Graham Dixon, the art historian presenting the documentary, claims that “if this computer image represents the original portrait of Mona Lisa, it was a portrait her husband never received. Instead, Leonardo went on to paint the world’s most famous picture over the top.”

Art historians have theorised that there were two different Mona Lisa paintings for decades, including a painting dubbed the Isleworth Mona Lisa, discovered before World War I.

source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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