They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the Mona Lisa may be worth twice that. Recently, an analysis was done on the Mona Lisa which used multispectral camera to detect the layers of paint on the canvas. The results of this test revealed that the Mona Lisa the world sees is actually one of four paintings layered on top of one another. This revelation has sent shockwaves throughout the art world as it finally confirms the longstanding myth that the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre is not the original portrait.
In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen and remained missing for another two years before it was finally found. However, once the painting was once again hanging in the Louvre, many art critics questioned whether or not the Mona Lisa that was returned was the original painting. No one could have guessed though that it was Da Vinci himself, and not an art thief, that covered the true face of the Mona Lisa.
The scientist who conducted the tests on the Mona Lisa, Pascal Cotte, has concluded that the first painting of the Mona Lisa is believed to be an early study of the head, the second portrait layered on top of that one is more detailed and she is believed to be wearing an elaborate headdress, the third layer (the one right below the painting we see) is believed to be DaVinci’s first true portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (the woman believed to be the Mona Lisa). It is not quite yet known why DaVinci decided to redo another portrait on top of the original, but art historians agree that there are significant changes between the two. In the first portrait, she is not looking at the viewer nor is she wearing her trademark smile. Instead, DaVinci originally portrayed her with a slightly younger looking face, looking off into the distance, her face relaxed and unsmiling.
Historians and scientists alike are eager to run further tests on the Mona Lisa and many other of DaVinci’s works to determine if they too cover other paintings. Cotte and his team, however, are just grateful that, after hundreds of years, they have finally found the Mona Lisa.