Leonardo unmasked: Da Vinci decoded in ‘hidden dots’ that unravel Mona Lisa alterations

Leonardo: Aidan Turner stars in teaser trailer

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The world-famous artist is the subject of the new Amazon Prime drama Leonardo, which explores his personal relationships and links him to a murder plot. Poldark actor Aiden Turner stars as Renaissance master alongside Freddie Highmore, James D’Arcy and Matilda De Angelis. The show will likely lead to more questions about Da Vinci and as fact and fiction blur into one on screen, many will reanalyse the legendary painter’s legacy.

At least 15 pieces of art have been accredited to Da Vinci but many more are suspected to be the work of his hand.

They included the legendary Mona Lisa, which currently hangs in The Louvre, in Paris, and is visited by around eight million people per year.

However, a new discovery was shared with Express.co.uk that could redefine the understanding of that famous artwork.

Pascal Cotte, a scientist and engineer, was granted access to the Mona Lisa to digitally scan the work with his custom-built specialist equipment. 

Using a camera that captures 240 million pixels and 13 wavelengths of light, including four the human eye cannot see, he found hidden details within the piece.

For comparison, the average professional camera can only document 20 million pixels and the three primary colours of light – red, yellow and blue.

Mr Cotte found a series of dots in three parts of the Mona Lisa, which he claims could prove there were alterations made to the painting.

The dots, known as spolvero, as small marks used to create an outline when transferring a piece from a small canvas to a larger one.

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The spolvero marks were found in three separate locations on the Mona Lisa and reveal the artwork may not have been an original painting.  

From Mr Cotte’s findings, the most surprising was a “hidden hairpin” located just above and to the right of the Mona Lisa’s head. 

He told Express.co.uk that this accessory was “not possible” for a woman of that time, as she could not have “had hair like this”.

The engineer claimed “it was impossible” for Mona Lisa to have had a hairpin because that was “not the style” of the era.

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Mr Cotte explained that in Da Vinci paintings, the subject’s clothing, hairstyle and appearance were all vitally important to define their stature and position within society.

He consulted with art historians, who concluded that a hairpin at the time would have only been used to depict “a goddess”, “the Virgin Mary” or a supernatural being.

In reference to the “hidden hairpin”, Mr Cotte told Express.co.uk: “It was impossible for that time in the city of Florence.”

Mr Cotte also found a second set of spolvero marks that show the “position” of Mona Lisa’s head could have been changed to make her “look right at you”.

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His scans showed several dots around her forehead, which he believes could prove the alteration.

Mr Cotte suggested Da Vinci could have made this change so that she looked at observers “like a mother”.

He told Express.co.uk: “Everybody has a mother, so can share and feel emotion while looking at the portrait.”

The third change identified by Mr Cotte was the positioning of the Mona Lisa’s hands – again through a series of spolvero marks.

He believed this was to make the hands, which are one of the hardest sections to paint, more realistic.

Mr Cotte claims to have made 150 discoveries in total, which he published in the book Lumiere On The Mona Lisa: Hidden Portraits. 

Ultimately he concluded that the Mona Lisa was originally a painting of the Virgin Mary before he changed it.

Mr Cotte told Express.co.uk that Da Vinci was “very, very busy” and his artistic talent was in high demand at that time in his life.

He explained: “He did not have time to paint a fresh portrait from the beginning but he had an unfinished portrait, which he used.”

Mr Cotte claimed Da Vinci “kept the hands, the landscape and other parts” of the original work before “transferring the head” of the Mona Lisa.

He added: “Then to hide the hairpin, he painted a veil that conceals all of the previous work.”

Aidan Turner stars in Leonardo, which is available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

To find out more about Pascal Cotte’s research into the Mona Lisa and other Leonardo Da Vinci paintings visit here.

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