Mona Lisa 'may contain second portrait'

Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait of the Mona Lisa is arguably one of the most recognisable pieces of art in the world. Its enigmatic smile has generated debate and inspired in equal measure, with its footprint of influence dictating the course of many corners of wider culture.
The most famous example is arguably Dan Brown’s fictional thriller, the Da Vinci Code, which hinted that the piece, along with his other works, contributed to a wider a conspiracy.
The gripping portrayal understandably compelled audiences all over the world, particularly given the depth of the Mona Lisa’s smirk, which in itself is often seen as being akin to that of someone hiding a secret.

Double portrait

Now it seems those suspicions may have been vindicated, with a French scientist now claiming to have uncovered a second portrait embedded within the iconic work.
Pascal Cotte, a French engineer who has analysed da Vinci’s famous painting, says reflective light technology has revealed the image of another woman underneath.
He has since claimed this hidden painting is likely to be the original portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, who is also known as Lisa Gherardini.
The claim is strikingly similar to that made in the Da Vinci Code, which states that the work is a merger of two elements – male and female. The result is, according to the novel, an androgynous portrait of the Mona Lisa, which reflects the sacred union of male and female implied in the holy union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
It even suggests the name Mona Lisa is actually an anagram for “Amon L’Isa”, referring to the father and mother gods of Ancient Egyptian religion namely Amun and Isis.
There are certainly echoes of that plot twist in this latest discovery, with digital reconstructions showing the second woman seemingly looking to one side, with a far slimmer and more feminine face

Mistaken identity?

There are contrasting claims as to the identity of the mystery woman, with some claiming it to be the original portrait of Lisa Gherardini. However, a separate theory is that the woman is in fact Mona Pacifica, the lover of Da Vinci’s patron, Guiliano di Lorenzi de Medici.
The claims have been made the subject of a recent BBC documentary on the subject, although not everyone is so keen to speak up, with the Louvre Museum, where the priceless painting is on public display, declining to comment.
Others have moved to dismiss the idea. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford told the BBC’s Roya Nikkhah: “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.”
Kemp instead believes the images apparently discovered by Mr Cotte instead show how the painting evolved.
While Mr Cotte has has refused to rule out that possibility, he claims there is still a noticeably marked difference between the two images.
He told the MailOnline: “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.”
It seems Da Vinci’s incredible legacy could possibly have a new chapter, which much like the others will could filled with debate and intense analysis.