According to French scientist Pascal Cotte – one of the world’s leading experts in the analysis of paintings – other portraits can be found underneath the existing version of the Mona Lisa, art’s most famous masterpiece. Through the use of Layer Amplification Method (LAM) technology, Cotte claims to have discovered three more images concealed underneath the surface of the painting.

Cotte has spent over ten years analysing the Mona Lisa, after being given access to the painting by the Louvre in 2004. As co-founder of Lumiere Technology, Cotte pioneered the LAM used to analyse Da Vinci’s work. LAM works by shining intense lights onto the surface of the art then measuring and recording the light’s reflections with a multi-spectral camera. From this, it is claimed the hidden secrets beneath the layers of paint can be revealed in greater depth than using previous infrared and scanning techniques. The LAM technique has previously uncovered the secrets of works by Rembrandt and Picasso, amongst others. Cotte’s analysis of another Da Vinci masterpiece, Lady with an Ermine, made headlines in September 2014 as it revealed the artist’s previous work and revisions underneath the completed version.

“The intensity of LAM meant Da Vinci’s initial attempts were uncovered”

Originally, The Louvre asked Cotte to use his technology to discover the painting’s original pigments and colours, which have faded over time. However, the intensity of LAM meant Da Vinci’s initial attempts were uncovered. Cotte found one portrait in which the composition of Mona Lisa’s body was larger, and a later version of her wearing the headdress only usually depicted on saints and Madonna figures, which appears to have been deliberately erased by Da Vinci. Another version of the painting beneath shows a different face, which is believed to be the ‘real’ Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine silk merchant’s wife the Mona Lisa is thought to represent.

Cotte revealed his findings at a press conference in Shanghai on Tuesday 8th December 2015, in preparation for the upcoming ‘Da Vinci – The Genius’ exhibition opening. His research, and the possible existence of more copies of Mona Lisa was explored in a BBC Two Documentary broadcast on Wednesday 9th December, that is still available on BBC iPlayer, for those who want to learn more about this fascinating artwork.

Despite this apparently decisive new evidence, the Louvre has declined to comment on the newest findings, and Cotte’s revelations have divided the art world, with many dismissing the claims as simply revisions. Only further research will discover whether this enigmatic painting indeed has more secrets to be revealed.

Amy Wilcockson

Image credit: Navin75 via Flikr

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