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.
Italian scientists have opened a Florence tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The tomb contains the family of Lisa Gherardini, a silk merchant’s wife who is believed to have sat for the artist.
It is hoped DNA will help to identify her from three skeletons found last year in a nearby convent.
Experts have for centuries puzzled over the woman featured in the Mona Lisa, and the reason for her cryptic smile.
To find the DNA they needed, scientists cut a round hole in the stone church floor above the family crypt of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The tomb lies behind the altar of the Santissima Annunziata Basilica.
Writer and researcher Silvano Vinceti plans to compare DNA from the bones with that of three women buried at the nearby convent of Saint Ursula.
Lisa Gherardini died there as a nun in 1542.
Italian scientists have opened a Florence tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
It is hoped that some of the bones will belong to at least one of her blood relation, probably her son, Piero.
“When we find a match between mother and child – then we will have found the Mona Lisa,” said Silvano Vinceti.
He added that once a DNA match is made, an image of Lisa Gherardini’s face can be generated from the skull and compared with the painting.
Leonardo da Vinci took about 15 years to complete what has become one of the most famous paintings of all time.
One of the artist’s favourite paintings, he carried it with him until he died in 1519.
It was acquired by King Francis I, who ruled France from 1515 to 1547. The painting was put on permanent display in the Louvre in Paris at the end of the 18th century.
The piece was stolen from the museum in 1911 by a former employee who believed it belonged in Italy.
He was apprehended by police two years later, and the Mona Lisa was safely returned.
While its small size can surprise Louvre visitors, the painting is the biggest attraction in the museum.
One popular, if unlikely, theory suggests it was a self-portrait.
There are similarities between the facial features of the Mona Lisa and of the artist’s self-portrait painted many years later, with some suggesting this is the reason behind the portrait’s famed enigmatic smile.
Artist Ron Piccirillo claims to have cracked a 500-year-old mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa – by spotting a series of zoo animals hidden in the painting.
Ron Piccirillo, an amateur oil painter and graphic designer based in New York, believes it is possible to see the heads of a lion, an ape and a buffalo floating in the air around the subject’s head along with a crocodile or snake coming out of the left hand side of her body.
He says he followed a series of instructions set out by the artist Leonardo da Vinci to decipher the image and claims his discovery cracks open the meaning of the work, painted in 1519.
The secret is that the Mona Lisa is actually a representation of envy.
The theory is likely to lead to controversy among art critics, many of whom having theories of their own about the painting and the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile.
Ron Piccirillo claims to have found similar hidden images in works by other Renaissance painters such as Titian and Rafael.
It was when he turned the painting on its side that he first noticed the lion’s head.
Artist Ron Piccirillo claims to have cracked a 500-year-old mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa - by spotting a series of zoo animals hidden in the painting
Ron Piccirillo said: “Then I noticed the buffalo and I thought: <<Oh my God>>. Then I realized I was really onto something. I just could not believe what I was looking at. I realized, <<this is what I’ve been looking for>>.”
The artist also said he had found either a crocodile or snake by following the instructions of Leonardo da Vinci’s journals.
Looking at the painting from a 45 degree angle from the left, the path that runs in the scenery behind the Mona Lisa appears almost serpentine.
This was supposedly where the angle of the light was best and led to the least amount of reflection. From a diagram in Leonardo da Vinci’s journals which explained this, Ron Piccirillo called it the “D-point”.
The instructions also called for the viewer to put their eyes on the same level as the horizon in the painting.
From this he was able to make sense of the line in the passage about how to paint envy which reads: “Make her heart gnawed by a swelling serpent”, as there is such a creature emerging from her right breast.
Ron Piccirillo then spent two months pouring over the Leonardo da Vinci’s journals before coming up on a passage about envy.
“It’s amazing because everyone thought that da Vinci never wrote about the Mona Lisa, but now it appears that he did.”
The passage in question talks about how the artist trying to paint envy must “give her a leopard’s skin, because this creature kills the lion out of envy and by deceit” – a reference to the hidden lion’s head.
Once Ron Piccirillo cracked that everything else fell into place.
He said: “This is really about viewing perspective. Imagine standing in front of an oval line drawing. It is obviously an oval, but if you view it from the left or right, at a large enough angle, the oval turns into a circle.
“This is the key to understanding how Leonardo and many other Renaissance artists hid subjects in their artwork. If you know to look for them, they are there.
“I don’t know why this has been missed for so long and I can’t tell you what it means – that’s one for the art historians.
“Da Vinci could have been using horses heads as some kind of religious code, but as to why they are hidden I have no idea.
“It’s not every day you spot something that has gone unnoticed for 500 years.”
Ron Piccirillo added: “It is not just in da Vinci’s works.
“I have seen these hidden images in works by Titian and Rafael and also all over the Sistine Chapel.”
Last year Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage claimed revealed that magnification of high-resolution images of the Mona Lisa’s eyes has revealed letters and numbers.
Infra-red images have also revealed Leonardo da Vinci’s preparatory drawings that lie behind layers of varnish and paint.
Leonardo da Vinci began work on the painting in 1503, and it now hangs in the Louvre in Paris in a concrete, climate-controlled bunker where she can only be viewed through two sheets of bulletproof glass set 25 cm apart.
The work, also known as “La Gioconda”, is believed to have portrayed the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
The title is a play on her husband’s name, and also means “the jolly lady” in Italian.
The fight to uncover Leonardo da Vinci’s hidden battle scene
A row between art historians over the uncovering of Leonardo da Vinci’s “hidden” but finest work is reaching a climax.
The Battle of Anghiari is believed to have been painted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence underneath a 16th century fresco and has been the subject of an argument for the last 35 years.
The Battle of Anghiari is believed to have been painted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence underneath a 16th century fresco and has been the subject of an argument for the last 35 years
To see if the painting really is there could see the destruction of the fresco and 150 art experts from around the world have been protested against the speculative work.
Last week a 2 cm cavity was drilled into the wall, according to the Guardian, and there were traces of an organic pigment found by a tiny camera inserted into the wall.
The work is being done by Maurizio Seracini who features in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.
The fresco that is currently in place is the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana by Giorgio Vasari and was painted in 1543, nearly 60 years after Leonardo da Vinci started his work.
The painting technique, used experimenting with an oil paint technique, was not successful and he abandoned the work, unfinished. Copies, however, have been made by other artists such as Ruben’s drawing which hangs in the Louvre.