Leonardo da Vinci: Specialist scan ‘unveils every brushstroke of Mona Lisa’

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The early 16th century painting is one of the world’s most treasured pieces of art. Currently it hangs in the The Louvre, in Paris, where it is visited by around eight million people every year. The craft behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s famed work has been revealed by inventor Pascal Cotte, who shared his findings with Express.co.uk. 

The engineer was granted access to the Mona Lisa so that he could digitally scan the artwork with his specialist equipment and technique. 

Mr Cotte built a camera that can capture 240million pixels and 13 wavelengths of light, including four which cannot be seen by the human eye. 

Normal professional cameras can capture up to 20 million pixels and the three primary colours. 

His scanning technique then feeds data back into a computer and allows him to see the painting at “every layer of its evolution”.

Through this technique, Mr Cotte discovered spolvero marks – small dots that are used to create an outline for a painting – in three sections.

He told Express.co.uk about a “hidden hairpin” to the right of the Mona Lisa’s forehead, an accessory that does not fit the time period. 

Mr Cotte said: “It is not possible for Mona Lisa to have hair like this, it was impossible of the time in the city of Florence.”

After consulting art historians he believes the hairpin would have been painted for a “goddess” or “the Virgin Mary”. 

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He also discovered that Da Vinci changed the “position of the head” of the Mona Lisa to “make her look right at you”. 

Mr Cotte told Express.co.uk: “‘She looks at you like a mother and everybody has a mother so can share and feel emotion while looking at the portrait.”

Another observation was that he changed the position of the woman’s left hand, which he discovered because of the spolvero marks detected during his scans.

This led Mr Cotte to conclude that the Mona Lisa was not the original painting Da Vinci made on the canvas – he believes the artist transformed a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

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The expert continued: “At this point he was very, very busy, he didn’t have time to paint a fresh portrait from the beginning. 

“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 made 150 discoveries about the painting, which he published in the 2015 book Lumiere on The Mona Lisa: Hidden Portraits. 

Da Vinci expert Professor Martin Kemp, from the University of Oxford, supported the findings in the 2010 documentary series Mystery Files.

He said: “In terms of a painting, the Mona Lisa is probably the great summary of what he could do.

“Renaissance paintings are very layered things, they are made up layer, by layer, by layer.

“Pascal Cotte’s technology is very powerful at [detecting] both what’s on the surface of the picture but also using particularly the infrared to look through the surface.”

Mystery Files was first broadcast in 2010 and is available to watch on Amazon Prime. 

To find out more about Pascal Cotte’s work or Lumiere Technology visit here. 

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