After more than a decade, a team lead by French scientist, Pascal Cotte, has released findings that point to a hidden secret beneath the famous Mona Lisa.
The scientist claims that the real portrait lies beneath the surface of the original.
As reported in a BBC Two documentary, The Secrets of the Mona Lisa, Cotte employed a technique called Layer Amplification Method to test his theory.
The technique works by “projecting a series of intense lights” onto the painting where cameras were used to record and measure lights’ reflections.
These reflections were then used to reconstruct the layers beneath the facade.
“We can now analyze exactly what is happening inside the layers of the paint and we can peel like an onion all the layers of the painting,” explained Cotte in the BBC Two documentary “We can reconstruct all the chronology of the creation of the painting.”
Whilst earlier attempts at analysing the portrait have brought up different results, Cotte claims that his technique is able to penetrate more deeply into the artwork.
He 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.”
Cotte claims that his discovery disproves the theory that Mona Lisa is in fact Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.
He said: “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.”
The technique also claims to have revealed further portraits, pointing to an outline of a portrait with larger features and one ‘Madonna-style’ with etchings of a pearl headdress.
But not everyone is as convinced of Cotte’s theory.
Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford is one such person.
“They [Cotte’s images] are ingenious in showing what Leonardo may have been thinking about. But the idea that there is that picture as it were hiding underneath the surface is untenable,” says Professor Kemp.
He added: “I do not think there are these discrete 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. ”
Cotte announced his findings at a press conference in Shanghai earlier this week.
The announcement was made as part of an exhibition entitled Da Vinci – The Genius, which documents Cotte’s 11 year research project into the Mona Lisa.