After more than a decade studying Da Vinci’s masterpiece, a French scientist claims he has uncovered a hidden image underneath the Mona Lisa.
Pascal Cotte, who was given access to the painting in 2004, has used his own Layer Amplification Method to reveal an earlier image that was hidden by Leonardo underneath his masterpiece. His claims now add fuel to the fierce debate surrounding the true identity of the woman in the portrait, for centuries believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.
Mr Cotte claims his discovery casts serious doubt on the popular theory:
The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo’s masterpiece forever. 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.
Most historians believe Da Vinci began work on the Mona Lisa in Florence in 1503, eventually putting the finishing touches to his masterpiece 14 years later in France.
Mr Cotte said:
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.
However, not everyone is buying into Mr Cotte’s theory. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford, said:
The idea that there is that picture as it were hiding underneath the surface is untenable. 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.
The Louvre Museum has refused to comment on Mr Cottes’s findings.