According to French scientist Pascal Cotte, an image of a portrait underneath the Mona Lisa has been found beneath the existing painting using reflective light technology.
Pascal Cotte said he has spent more than 10 years using the technology to analyze Leonardo’s most celebrated artwork.
He claims the earlier portrait lies hidden underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa painting.
A reconstruction shows another image of a sitter looking off to the side.
However, the Louvre Museum has declined to comment on Pascal Cotte’s claims because it “was not part of the scientific team”.
Instead of the famous, direct gaze of the painting which hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the image of the sitter also shows no trace of her enigmatic smile, which has intrigued art lovers for more than 500 years.
However, Pascal Cotte’s claims are controversial and have divided opinion among Leonardo experts.
The scientist, who is the co-founder of Lumiere Technology in Paris, was given access to the painting in 2004 by the Louvre.
Pascal Cotte has pioneered a technique called Layer Amplification Method (LAM), which he used to analyse the Mona Lisa.
It works by “projecting a series of intense lights” on to the painting, Pascal Cotte said. A camera then takes measurements of the lights’ reflections and from those measurements, the scientist said he is able to reconstruct what has happened between the layers of the paint.
The Mona Lisa has been the subject of several scientific examinations over more than half a century. More recent techniques include infrared inspections and multi-spectral scanning.
Pascal Cotte has claimed his technique is able to penetrate more deeply into the painting.
He said: “We can now analyze 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.”
Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have worked on the painting between 1503 and 1517 while working in Florence and later in France.
There has long been debate about the Mona Lisa’s identity. But for centuries, it has been widely believed that she is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.
However, Pascal Cotte has claimed his discoveries challenge that theory. He believes the image he has reconstructed underneath the surface of the painting is Leonardo’s original Lisa, and that the portrait named Mona Lisa for more than 500 years is, in fact, a different woman.
He said: “The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo’s masterpiece forever.
“When I finished the reconstruction of Lisa Gherardini, I was in front of the portrait and she is totally different to Mona Lisa today. This is not the same woman.”
He also claims to have found two more images under the surface of the painting – a shadowy outline of a portrait with a larger head and nose, bigger hands but smaller lips.
Pascal Cotte says he has found another Madonna-style image with Leonardo’s etchings of a pearl headdress.
Paris public museums and tourist sites have reopened following the attacks in the French capital on November 13.
Many of Paris’s tourist attractions, including the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, closed on Saturday amid heightened security.
The institutions reopened at 13:00 local time following a minute’s silence to honor those who were killed.
A total of 129 people died in the attacks by Islamist militants.
People were targeted in bars and restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France.
In explaining the decision to reopen the venues, France’s Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said although France had suffered a tragic event, “culture is more than ever this symbolic place of self-discovery”.
Fleur Pellerin added the government would help to boost security measures at public cultural institutions in Ile-de-France, the region immediately surrounding Paris.
Its landmarks include the Louvre, which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Theaters were also ordered to close following the attacks, but most reopened on November 15.
The Louvre museum in Paris has called in the pest controllers after picnickers in its gardens encouraged an infestation of rats.
Startling photos and videos posted online in recent days show rats scavenging for food, singly or in groups, yards from snacking tourists.
The Louvre gardens are popular as a resting-place for the gallery’s tens of thousands of daily visitors.
Parisians also use the gardens as a lunching spot.
At the height of summer, museum authorities are having difficulties keeping the gardens – which consist of lawns intercut by lines of thick hedge and studded with early 19th Century statuary – clean.
Rubbish and scraps of discarded food accumulate beneath the hedges, whose interiors are occasionally used as a toilet. Crows peck among the detritus next to overflowing bins.
The Louvre museum in Paris has called in the pest controllers after picnickers in its gardens encouraged an infestation of rats
The rat alert was raised by photographer Xavier Francolon, who was taking pictures of the nearby Tuileries funfair when he got sidetracked by the more interesting story unfolding beneath his feet.
“It’s quite common to see rats in Paris at night,” he told Le Point magazine.
“But what was weird was seeing them in broad daylight. They were going right up close to the people picnicking.” In two days he saw more than 30 of the pests.
“A Dutchman with his family asked me what those animals were. The family must have been to Disneyland because when I told him, his children started shouting: <<Look, it’s Ratatouille!>>”
The Eurodisney theme park outside Paris has just opened a new attraction based on the exploits of the culinary rat.
According to a pest expert quoted in Le Parisien newspaper, there is now a “Ratatouille effect” which renders children almost friendly towards rats.
“In the Louvre gardens you even see people feeding the rats, which is the very last thing they should be doing,” he said.
The Louvre museum says it is aware of the problem, and has a regular program of rat clearance in the gardens. Following the latest sightings, pest controllers have been in again and for now the rats seem to have disappeared.
Various reasons have been put forward for this year’s proliferation at the Louvre. The mild winter will have encouraged reproduction (and with five litters a year of between five and 12 pups, rats breed fast).
The vast urban reconstruction project at Les Halles, which is nearby, may have displaced many of the animals. And recent rainstorms caused water to accumulate in sewers, bringing rats to the surface.
Above all it is the lack of cleanliness at the Louvre gardens which is at fault.
Frederic Devanlay of the pest-control company Avipur said: “There has been a steady increase in the number of rats in Paris going back eight years. They get used to human presence and as time goes by they come closer and closer to contact with people.”
According to an unofficial figure quoted in all the French press, it is reckoned there are now six million rodents in Paris – 2.5 per human inhabitant.
Louvre has topped the list of the most visited art museums of 2012, according to the Art Newspaper.
The publication’s annual survey found 9.7 million people visited the Louvre in Paris – one million more than 2011.
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was the second most-visited venue, with three London museums taking the third, fourth and fifth spots.
The most popular exhibition of 2012 was a show of Dutch Old Masters at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Art Museum.
Louvre has topped the list of the most visited art museums of 2012
Masterpieces from the Mauritshuis, which included Vermeer’s 1665 painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, brought 10,500 visitors a day to the Tokyo gallery between June and September 2012.
The paintings had been on loan from The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Hague, which is closed for refurbishment until mid-2014.
The collection will tour the US and Italy before returning to the Netherlands next year.
Visitor numbers at the Louvre, which has topped the annual list of most popular venues since it began in 2007, were boosted by the museum’s new wing of Islamic art.
While the position of the top 10 venues showed little change on the previous year, British museums had an “excellent” 2012 according to the survey, boosted by increased visitors to London for the summer Olympics.
Tate Modern, which attracted a large number visitors thanks to a Damien Hirst retrospective and the Tanks installation, moved up a place to fourth on the list with 5.3 million visitors – up from 4.8 million in 2011.
It pushed the National Gallery down to fifth place.
Alex Beard, deputy director at the Tate said its versatile offering helped bring more people to gallery.
“It has been an extraordinary year at Tate Modern, opening the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works alongside an outstanding exhibition programme which has undoubtedly fuelled the increase in visitors,” he said.
Surprisingly, none of the 20 most popular exhibitions were held at any of the top five most visited galleries.
Tokyo featured a second time on the list with an exhibition of European art at the National Museum.
While Rio’s Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil appeared three times with The Amazon: Cycles of Modernity in second place with 7,928 daily visitors, Antony Gormley’s Still Being, at seven with 6,909 daily visitors and India at 11 with 6,347 daily visitors.
An exhibition of 19th Century Italian paintings at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg was the third most-visited show with 7,747 visitors a day.
And in London, David Hockney’s A Bigger Picture – which featured large-scale works on canvas and an iPad – attracted 7,512 daily visitors to the Royal Academy of Arts to become the fifth most-visited.
Due to its popularity, the gallery extended its opening hours for the show’s final week, opening until midnight on weekdays.
Meanwhile, in the Art Newspaper’s list of top 10 London venues, Leonardo at the National Gallery was the highest ranking show to feature pre-20th Century works, with 3,985 visitors a day.