Leonardo da Vinci’s most celebrated piece of art, the Mona Lisa, is the topic of much discussion, after French scientist Pascal Cotte claimed that there are three secret portraits hidden underneath the famous painting’s smile.
After carefully analyzing the painting for over 10 years with cutting-edge technology, Cotte says that reflective light equipment allowed him to make this discovery. By using a multispectral camera to project intense lights on the painting, he measured reflections, and therefore was able to expose what happened between the paint layers.
Cotte claims that underneath the image of the famous woman, there is one portrayal of a sitter looking off to the side, with no trace of a smile. This is likely to be a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the woman thought to be the subject of the painting. The scientist released a statement on his findings, saying, “The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo’s masterpiece forever.”
However, not all specialists are in agreement with Cotte’s findings. Although art historian Martin Kemp told CNN that Cotte’s techniques are “highly innovatory,” he remained skeptical on the discovery, by saying, “There are considerable changes during the course of the making of the portrait…I prefer to see a relatively straightforward portrait of a Florentine woman into a philosophical and poetic picture that has a universal dimension.”
The Louvre Museum in Paris, which is home to da Vinci’s masterpiece, has declined to comment on Cotte’s discovery, and many questions surrounding the Mona Lisa and its underlying portraits still remain unanswered.
By Margaret Joel ’16, World News Senior Editor