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Hidden portrait lies under Mona Lisa’s smile, French scientist claims

A digital reconstruction, left, produced by French scientist Pascal Cotte shows a different version of the portrait lying underneath the Mona Lisa.
A digital reconstruction, left, produced by French scientist Pascal Cotte shows a different version of the portrait lying underneath the Mona Lisa. Brinkworth Films

French scientist Pascal Cotte says he has used reflective light technology to find an earlier, slightly different, portrait under Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous masterpiece.

The story of Cotte’s work, which took him more than a decade, is the subject of a BBC documentary that airs Dec. 9.

The hidden picture shows a woman looking into the distance, with no trace of the characteristic smile. Cotte believes he has discovered the genuine portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, also known as Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant, according to CNN.

“My scientific imagery technique (L.A.M.) takes us into the heart of the paint-layers of the world’s most famous picture and reveals secrets that have remained hidden for 500 years,” Cotte said in a statement. “The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo’s masterpiece forever.”

Art lovers and analysts reacted to the announcement, some with skepticism and some with outright mirth.

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