There Might Be A Hidden Portrait Under The Mona Lisa

Photo: Eric VANDEVILLE/ Getty Images.
A French scientist announced on Tuesday that he believes there's a secret portrait under the Mona Lisa.

Pascal Cotte, one of the co-founders of Paris' Lumiere Technology, claims he used reflective-light technology to study Leonardo da Vinci's most famous painting, and that's when he found the earlier image. Cotte used a technique known as the Layer Amplification Method (LAM) to find what he claims is an outline of another figure sitting for a portrait.

To make his discovery, Cotte projected lights onto the painting, and a camera measured the lights' various reflections. Cotte claims he was able to "reconstruct what has happened between the layers of the paint" to find the portrait, BBC News explains.

If proved true, the hidden likeness could affect how the world views the Mona Lisa. The mysterious subject of the famed portrait has never been identified, though many historians believe the figure depicts a Florentine woman named Lisa Gherardini. But Cotte believes that the painted-over portrait displays a different woman than the finished painting does, telling BBC News that the figure looks "totally different" from the Mona Lisa.

Some art experts are skeptical of Cotte's claim. It's not uncommon for portraits to include "underpaintings" when clients ask the artist to take the rendition in a different direction. So even if there is another portrait beneath the Mona Lisa, it's unlikely that it represents a different figure than the finished painting does.

Cotte, who says he's studied the Mona Lisa for more than 10 years, was given access to the painting in 2004. The portrait, also known as "La Gioconda," was rendered by da Vinci between 1503 and 1517 and is housed at the Louvre in Paris. The Louvre, for its part, told BBC News that it won't comment on Cotte's claims, since he "was not part of the scientific team" designated by the museum.
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