Original Portrait of the Mona Lisa Found Beneath the Paint Layers of da Vinci’s Masterpiece

The BBC is getting ready to air a documentary, Secrets of the Mona Lisa, which will delve into the research of French scientist Pascal Cotte. Using an innovative imaging technique, Cotte has managed to probe the paint layers beneath the surface of da Vinci’s sixteenth-century masterpiece. And, lo and behold, he’s found hidden paintings, including what he believes is an original, “real” portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (the subject of da Vinci’s painting).

The host of the documentary, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, announced, “I have no doubt that this is definitely one of the stories of the century.” Other art historians are not getting carried away. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford, said in an interview: “They [Cotte’s images] are ingenious in showing what Leonardo may have been thinking about. But the idea that there is that picture as it were hiding underneath the surface is untenable. I do not think there are these discrete stages which represent different portraits. I see it as more or less a continuous process of evolution. I am absolutely convinced that the Mona Lisa is Lisa.” Or, put differently, there are not different portraits on da Vinci’s canvas, just stages of the same portrait that now hangs in the Louvre today.

Get more background on the documentary and Cotte’s research here.

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  • RONALD NYDEGGER says:

    The questions we could ask ourselves are: 1. Was it an underpainting? 2. Was it an attempt to search for what made the smile a smile by reworking on top? 3. Was it a rework for mood setting of the portrait and ground? 4. Was it an attempt to seek something beyond the aspect of 3D suggesting, including the mystery within? 5. Did he try to find a way of illustrating which would bring something more than object contact; — the recognition of self to self seeing? This may have been Leonardo’s questions when attempting to illustrate the Natural state of Being. These are some of my questions when I draw. And equally may have been yours? Everyone’s questions perhaps? (Leonardo may have been influenced by Socrates statement about the movement of the soul?). Best wishes in your quest, leading towards illustrating and painting the human form. Equally “just” simply observing without and within.

    Note that on the overpainting the light on the face, the shadows are different and mellower. The outline of the face is also a little wider and therefore giving a little smaller smile. This seems to give a sweeter smile complexion of the whole face. It seems the underpainting is of a younger girl. I could be wrong on this point. Nevertheless that’s how it appears to me now. Leonardo may have studied the girl in time; as she was growing he may have noticed a greater bulk of face. It is possible to experience this when you see a person again after you had not seen for some time. These may have been the factors which Leonardo may have come across in the production the painting.

    When we meet together we feel our emotions and the words expressed from one to one and many; say? Joy? This may be a question under observation in the performance of painting the human figure. Seeing may be passive and active in art performance. All five senses can be instrumental to the artist. Dare I say the 6th sense(s)? {The realm of metaphysics

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