French scientist Pascal Cotte revealed a secret lying under the Mona Lisa portrait saying that he found an image of another woman beneath the existing painting after spending 10 years analysing it with reflective light technology.
Cotte claimed that the earlier portrait of another woman was lying hidden underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa painting, the most famous portrait in the world and Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
His analyses shows another image of a woman who is also sitting and looking off to the side. In the image, there is no trace of Mona Lisa’s famous, direct gaze and enigmatic smile, which has attracted art lovers for more than 500 years.
The Louvre Museum, where Mona Lisa hangs in Paris, rejected to make a comment on Cotte’s claims.
Cotte said he had been analysing the portrait for more than 10 years using reflective light technology.
The Louvre gave Cotte, the co-founder of Lumiere Technology in Paris, access to analyse the painting in 2014. He used a technique called Layer Amplification Method (LAM) which he has pioneered, to analyse the Mona Lisa portrait.
Cotte said that the LAM works by “projecting a series of intense lights” on to the painting and then a camera takes measurements of the light's reflections. Those measurements enabled Cotte to reconstruct what had happened between the layers of the painting.
The Mona Lisa has being analysed for over more than half a century for scientific examinations. Before Cotte’s technique, the latest ones were infrared inspections and multi-spectral scanning.
However, Cotte said that his technique enables to penetrate more deeply into the painting than others.
"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," Cotte said.
Does Mona Lisa have another identity?
It is believed that Leonardo painted the image between 1503 and 1517 as he was working in Florence and later in France.
Mona Lisa’s identity has long been controversial. But for centuries it has been widely believed that Mona Lisa is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.
However, Cotte said that his analyses challenged that belief. According to him, the image he found underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa is Leonardo’s original Lisa and in fact, the portrait called Mona Lisa for more than 500 years is a different woman.
"The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo's masterpiece forever,” Cotte said.
"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 added.
However, his claims prompted controversy and divided opinion among Leonardo experts.
"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,” said Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.
"I do not think there are these discreet 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, " he added.