A French scientist who spent more than 10 years analyzing Mona Lisa claims he discovered a different portrait hidden underneath the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.
Pascal Cotte, co-founder of the Paris-based art digitization firm Lumiere Technology, was given access to the painting in 2004 by the Louvre. After using reflective light technology, he found the woman in the portrait — believed to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant — doesn’t have the fixed gaze she is known for. Instead, she is looking off to the side.
"The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo's masterpiece forever,” he told the BBC. "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."
Although Cotte’s research has fascinated many, not all historians agree with his claims.
“[The images] are ingenious in showing what Leonardo may have been thinking about,” said Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of the history of art at Oxford University and a world-renowned Leonardo da Vinci scholar. “But the idea that there is that picture as it were hiding underneath the surface is untenable.”
The Mona Lisa is one of the most valued paintings of all time. It has been valued at USD$100 million but adjusted for inflation it’s worth $782 million.
Cotte’s revelation comes a day before the BBC will air a documentary called Secrets of the Mona Lisa on Dec. 9.