A scientist believes he has found a hidden portrait under the Mona Lisa

The ‘original’ Mona Lisa, right. Picture: BBC

A French scientist says he has uncovered evidence of another portrait underneath the most famous portrait in the world, the Mona Lisa.

Pascal Cotte told the BBC he has spent 10 years examining Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece and found another image of someone posing, but looking off to the side instead of directly at the painter.

The Louvre Museum refuses to comment on his claims. Although Cotte says the museum gave him permission to study the portrait in 2004, the museum says it was not part of Cotte’s project.

Cotte also believes the figure in the original painting is not the “Lisa” seen, believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant. Art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon told the BBC that if that is true, there is a case for the portrait to be renamed.

“I have no doubt that this is definitely one of the stories of the century,” he said.

“There will probably be some reluctance on the part of the authorities at the Louvre in changing the title of the painting because that’s what we’re talking about – it’s goodbye Mona Lisa, she is somebody else.”

Cotte is the co-founder of Paris-based company Lumiere Technology.

He says he found the “original” portrait by projecting intense light onto the portrait and measuring reflections with a specialised camera. The measurements allowed him to reconstruct how the portrait was “built”.

The BBC will air a documentary about Cotte’s theory in The Secrets of the Mona Lisa on BBC Two at 9pm tonight (8am, Dec 10, AEDT).

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