We never know the secret behind Mona Lisa’s indescribable laughter – but the 1503 oil portrait of Leonardo da Vinci has slipped another mystery.
French researchers used a high-resolution camera that could capture light beyond the visible spectrum to study the masterpiece in unprecedented detail.
The images reveal woodpecker dots that are traces of a technology – known as ‘spoolvaro’ or ‘pounding’ – used to transfer outlines from a sketch to a new panel.
Although Spolovaro is a common technique, it is the first time that it has been proven that the final Mona Lisa was based on a preparatory sketch.
Researchers also found evidence that The Vinci edited the Mona Lisa as soon as the work was completed, with his left hand in a slightly different position in the trace.
In addition, some Splovero dots match the previous, abandoned project that drew the Mona Lisa at the top of Da Vinci.
French researchers used a high-resolution camera that could capture light beyond the visible spectrum to study the masterpiece in unprecedented detail. Illustrated: Slavero dots and hidden details below the Mona Lisa using a high-resolution, multiseptral camera to pick up unconscious marks with the so-called ‘layer widening method’ or LAM
The images reveal woodpecker dots that are traces of a technology – known as ‘spoolvaro’ or ‘pounding’ – used to transfer outlines from a sketch to a new panel. Illustrated, a close part of the Mona Lisa’s forehead, seen in normal light (left) and after multiple spectral analysis (right). The next image reveals the spolovero dots by identifying the detail at the bottom of her hairline
History of Mona Lisa
The half-length portrait was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between about 1503-1515.
Interested in this painting is Lisa Gherardini, an Italian aristocrat, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a silk merchant.
The painting was acquired by King Francis I of France in 1815 and is still occupied by the French Republic.
It has been on display at the Mus দুe du Louvre since 1797.
The painting rose to prominence in 1911 after being recovered by museum staff after being stolen.
The masterpiece is viewed by about 6 million people every year.
Pausing’s art technique is no different from the method used to copy an image through tracing paper, as it may be familiar from school art classes.
To perform the transition, the artist makes holes – either directly in the original sketch, or traces the paper placed on top of them – marking the outline of the figure as a series of tiny dots.
This perforated template is then placed on top of the final canvas and a powder – such as graphite, chalk or pastel – is forced through the hole, leaving a ‘Join-the-Dots’ style copy of the original sketch on the page where the work will end.
When one’s canvas does not forgive mistakes, such as when making an engraving, or – in the case of the Mona Lisa – painting on poplar wood that was laboriously prepared for a decade.
Leonardo – who learned his craft under fellow Italian master Andrea del Veroccio – was accustomed to drawing on wooden panels that were dried and treated with a mixture of glue, chalk and white pigment.
It creates a smooth, silky surface on which any work can be painted – including the direction of the spoolvaro dots transferred from the preference sketches.
Other portraits painted by Leonardo have a lot of spools, “explained paper authors Pascal Cote and Lionel Simonet.
For example, they continue, tracing signs can be found in ‘The Lady with Armin, Geneva d’Bensi and La Bell Ferronier.’
‘So, surprisingly, none of that was discovered [before] In Mona Lisa. ‘
Although Spolovaro is a common technique, it is the first time that it has been proven that the final Mona Lisa was based on a preparatory sketch. Pictured, a close-up of the Mona Lisa’s hand, seen in ordinary light (left) and after many spectral analyzes (right). The next figure marks the outline of each hand and reveals the spoolvaro dots
To perform a spoolvoro transfer, the artist makes holes – either directly in the original sketch, or traces the paper placed on top of them – marking the outline of the image
The dots on the paper itself can be made either with a pin – as in the previous figure – or with a spiked wheel that can be used to trace along the lines as a figure
The perforated template is placed on top of the final canvas and a powder – such as graphite, chalk or pastel – is forced through the hole, illustrated, where the work will end up with a ‘joint-the dots’ style copy of the original sketch of the page
French researchers use a high-resolution camera (pictured right) that can capture light beyond the visible spectrum to study masterpieces (left) in unprecedented detail
Traces reveal that Da Vinci made several changes to the Mona Lisa in the finished work from his original sketch.
For example, in the near-infrared part of the spectrum, the team found evidence that the fingers of the Mona Lisa’s left hand were intentionally in a slightly different position.
Messrs. Coty and Simont also discovered evidence that the Mona Lisa was painted on a board previously used for a canceled project – such reuse would not have been unusual given the time and cost involved in preparing the polar panel.
The proof came in the form of a hair needle with pearls – a simple symbolic decoration added to the figures of the portraits
‘This is a preparatory drawing […] Mona Lisa was found in the sky to the right of her head. This is amazing because it does not touch the edge of the head. It seems that Leonardo is related to a previous project, ‘the researchers wrote.
The full findings of the survey were published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage.
Messrs. Coty and Simont also discovered evidence that the Mona Lisa had previously been painted on a board used for a canceled project – this reuse would not have been so great due to the time and expense involved in preparing the poplar panel.
Messrs. Coty and Simont also discovered evidence that the Mona Lisa was previously painted on a board used for a canceled project. Such reuse would not be uncommon given the time and cost involved in preparing the poplar panel. Illustrated, another example of spoolvoro under a Da Vinci figure – in this case, ‘The Lady with Armin’, where the outline marks by dots do not match the surface image at all. This suggests that either the composition was fundamentally altered, or the traces were related to the individual work that was abandoned and its wooden panel was reused for final work.