Mona Lisa: Behind the Scenes

Mona Lisa Revealed

The Mona Lisa has long been considered a masterpiece of the world. But like any artist, Leonardo DaVinci made some adjustments to our beloved lady before she was finally finished. The use of different wavelengths of light, including ultraviolet and infrared, allow us to see past what our naked eye can see—and past what time has stripped away.

French engineer Pascal Cotte and his team were able to develop this method, and in 2007 it went on display in San Francisco. Looking through layers of paint, we can see a Mona Lisa far different than the one we know today. Her face is slightly wider, and the smile and eyes are different from the finalized version. Cotte also discovered evidence that she once had eyebrows as well.

Mona Lisa

Photo: Javier Estravez via Flickr CC

Earlier layers also show that Mona Lisa had a blanket draped across her lap, which her right arm holds up. We can even look through all the layers of paint to see preliminary sketches—some of which differ from the final version.

Her dress also had lace on it at one point. Her fingers changed positions as well. Cotte’s techniques even allow us to see the repairs to the painting made in the 1950s after it had a rock thrown at it. We can see varnish mistakes that contributed to her final outcome, such as those near her eye and chin.

Using such technology to look under the surface of paintings makes it feel like we’re somehow gaining insight into that artist’s or subject’s life. We can see what they saw long ago—the things that time has changed.

, , , , ,

22 Responses to “Mona Lisa: Behind the Scenes”

  1. Fatima April 26, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Letters on her eyes referred to Monte Vesuvio i guess, or related with…

    • wilson January 29, 2014 at 5:46 am #

      Think it’s very freaky why lie about such

  2. Troll May 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Mona Lisa is not even a fricken work of art. I’ve seen such more beauty, creativeness, and Mystery in many, MANY, other paintings. What’s so special about an ugly woman barely smiling? 2 years to make it? WHO CARES?! More beauty was made in 2 minutes of a toddler’s clumsy hands and more perfection in an artist who took 5 years to finish a painting, why isn’t he famous? BTW, the eyes don’t seem to be looking at you at every angle, you’re just looking at the eyes. Drop it, nobody cares about Mona Lisa anymore

    • admin May 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks for reading, even if you weren’t pleased with the subject matter. I would agree that the Mona Lisa is not the most amazing piece of art in the world, but it is a work of art nonetheless. It’s intrigued people for hundreds of years, for whatever reason, so there is clearly something that others find noteworthy about it. Perhaps you could suggest another artist or work of art for us to cover that better fits your tastes? We are always open to suggestions.

    • MonaLisadefendant May 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      What is wrong with you? Obviously, your name is suitable, TROLL! You are just messed up in the head. Yeah, it may not be the best work of art in the world, but could you do any better? I think not. It is beautiful.

    • MonaLisadefendant May 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

      If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all and don’t disturb the people who actually care about art and beauty.

    • Anonymus June 4, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      That is RIDICULOUS what u r saying
      im not a fan of art but the mystery behind it makes it interesting

    • Rose June 6, 2013 at 12:48 am #

      Her skin is flawless! She might be boring to you (and some others) but she is still a piece of artwork. Leonardo changed what it meant to be an artist. He started painting everyday people and scenes, not al religious or the royal family. That’s why he is famous. He is known to change the view of artwork and he gave us our modern art we have today. This boring girl opened new doors for the world.

    • Arnelle Boucicault June 9, 2013 at 12:37 am #

      What’s the matter with you Leonardo made Mona Lisa for a purpose and that purpose was for how ever you do a picture you will always be beautiful. Mona Lisa is a beautiful women in this picture and nothing can change that not even you. Yea im only 12 but i have a heart

    • Alexis September 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      You shouldn’t judge the painting so harshly without knowing the meaning behind. If you acually took the time to research why he painted this and what it means, you would find that this is infact a work of art. If after you don’t think so, then at least you can appreciate the purpose of the painting. This painting has caused me to look at art at a whole new level.

    • TheGirlWIthTheArtTattoo December 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      What makes it beautiful is how old, how unique it is. The mystery. Don’t rage because you don’t see. Just walk away.

    • cat January 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

      If YOU didnt care, about mona lisa, then you wouldnt even be looking at this post in the first place! And leonardo was such a smart intellegent person…he knew about things centuries in the future of his time

  3. D'Lynn May 26, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    Mona Lisa is a great piece of art and cannot be duplicated with the level of talent as DaVinci. Indisputable fact!

    The Prada Mona Lisa shows great detail in her garments, and the draping mourning veil.!/photo.php?fbid=258204960932134&set=pb.121586177927347.-2207520000.1369540963.&type=3&theater
    The red, white, and black colors of her garments give very significant clues to her real identity. Red expensive and a color for people of royal rank. Please look up Italian Renaissance sumptuary laws and class/status color differences.

    The secret Italian version is debatebly by DaVinci and an earlier version.

    But the true untold story of the sitter and her court painter is revealed within the long forgotten traditions and customs behind these paintings, and the knowledge of royal emblems and symbols of the Middle Ages.

    To learn her true identity see: – In Englsh and German

    …and, yes, this information continues to be hushed though it is the only research that can be proven 100% through DNA. Imagine how many DaVinci ‘experts’ would be out of a job if this mystery were solved, and how embrassed they would be to not have solved it. Please support this billiant historian for her great research in bringing us the real story by ‘liking’ the Facebook page..

    Judge for yourself if this is not indeed the real story behind DaVinci’s painting that he would not depart with until death.

  4. pompoms August 10, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    what do you mean she is boring? she may not have a smile on her face but she is still very beautiful. you have no idea how long it took for DaVinci to paint her. i have to say it’s not the best work of art, i’ve ever seen, but the fact that no one knows who the woman was and why she keeps her lips together when she smiles makes it interesting for us like the fact that hardly any people know who killed Marilyn Monroe and why. don’t you think that DaVinci might have painted her and made it all a mystery so that the people in the future could solve it like a maze? we all know he was very smart to think of a thing like making it a mystery , i mean he did paint what he thought the human lungs might have looked like. But just think of the fact that no one could draw something like the Mona Lisa, except for the painting with ‘the girl with the pearl earings’ is that painting real anyway? and who is she ?

  5. Greg February 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Il faudra réfléchir plus amplement pour trouver ce que cache se mystérieux tableau. Le plus connu au monde avant J.C et ses 12 apôtre. un jour on découvrira son secret, si il en cache un…

  6. Aimee Picasso April 12, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Monalisa is in fact the greatest piece of art I have ever laid eyes on even my 19 or even more than generation(Pablo Picasso)didnt do such a beautiful work like this. Monalisa takes all my love,vote and care of art and beauty

  7. Aimee Picasso April 12, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Monalisa is in fact the greatest piece of art I have ever laid eyes on even my 19 or even more than generation(Pablo Picasso)didnt do such a beautiful work like this. Monalisa takes all my love,vote and care of art and beauty


  1. ‘Mona Lisa’ Model Could Soon Be Identified - Cultivating Culture - February 19, 2014

    […] work, and even if there is a second “Mona Lisa” in existence. Previously, we wrote about how scientific developments allow us to see through the layers of paint and examine the artist’s metho… Now, new DNA research might allow us more insights as to who the woman in the painting may have […]

  2. When Is A Work of Art Finished? - Cultivating Culture - March 5, 2014

    […] finished, no matter the genre. “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” Leonardo da Vinci, legendary artist behind the Mona Lisa, famously once said. Art historians today are still trying to determine how many years da Vinci […]

  3. Instagram Lets Art Lovers Peek Inside Their Favorite Museums - Cultivating Culture - March 26, 2014

    […] visiting the Musée du Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, tends to be considered a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, following the famous museum on […]

  4. Beyoncé and Jay-Z Reimagined as Iconic Masterpieces - April 29, 2014

    […] from myriad artistic movements. You’ll find images like ­Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (Lovers) with Beyoncé’s face overlaid atop the original image, […]

  5. ¿Quién fue realmente la Mona Lisa?… | LAKLAVE - September 28, 2014

    […] […]

%d bloggers like this: