In an average year, it’s estimated that of the 10.2 million visitors to the Louvre around 80 percent visit the Parisian museum to view the Mona Lisa. But the early 16th Century painting, which was described as the “best known… most visited… and most parodied work of art in the world”, still could hold some secrets. Beneath the countless brushstrokes there are a number of secret details hidden under layers of paint, according to scientist Pascal Cotte.
Mr Cotte was granted access to the Leonardo da Vinci painting in 2004 and after his encounter spent a decade analysing each layer of the Mona Lisa from scans on his high-tech camera.
He was tasked with digitising the world-renowned work and after, through his pioneering Layer Amplification Method (LAM), was able to detect hidden details.
The process detects the way light is reflected on 13 wavelengths to capture how light and matter interact – the result was more than 1,650 images that showed every layer of paint.
While he analysed the scans, Mr Cotte noted a small mark in the background, just to the right of the Mona Lisa’s forehead – which he has since concluded is a hairpin.
He claimed that this shows the Mona Lisa was not the first painting the artist attempted on the wooden canvas.
“But he had an unfinished portrait, which he used – he kept the hands, the landscape and other parts and transferred the head.
“Then to hide the hairpin, he painted a veil that conceals all of the previous work.”
Mr Cotte claimed to have made 150 discoveries about the painting, which he published in his 2015 book ‘Lumiere on The Mona Lisa: Hidden Portraits’.
He commented that the discovery shows Leonardo da Vinci “still has some surprises in store for us”.
Mr Cotte added: “The official hypothesis is that only the portrait of Mona Lisa was painted on this poplar wooden plank… this little drawing shows that it is not that simple.
“These discoveries increase and increase the mystery of its creation, in the end we understand that it is the work of a very long ‘creative act’ – which spans more than a decade and in several stages.
“And then, the public’s curiosity is sometimes so strong that they may wonder if it is not possible to guess the hidden portrait by going to see her at the Louvre.”