Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci's famed portrait Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris
The latest theory has raised questions on the lineage of the famous painter. Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

Pascal Cotte says an older portrait lies below the surface of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting. Cotte claims the hidden portrait represents the original “Lisa” and the person seen in Da Vinci’s masterpiece, for long believed to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant, is actually someone else.

According to the BBC, Cotte’s reconstruction shows another image of a sitter, seen looking to the side. He claims to have found the hidden portrait with the help of reflective light technology, with which he has been experimenting with for the last 10 years. Cotte, the co-founder of Lumiere Technology in Paris, gained access to the painting in 2004 from the Louvre Museum, where Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa holds a place of pride.

Cotte, who reportedly pioneered the Layer Amplification Method (LAM) to analyse the painting, says the technique works by “projecting a series of intense lights,” whose reflections are measured with a camera. Though Leonardo Da Vinci’s historic painting hanging at the Louvre has been through several scientific examinations over the decades, Cotte claims the LAM technique penetrated the artwork more deeply than infrared and multi-spectral scanning tests.

"We can now analyse exactly what is happening inside the layers of the paint and we can peel like an onion all the layers of the painting. We can reconstruct all the chronology of the creation of the painting,” says Cotte. He says his findings “shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo's masterpiece forever.”

The Newsweek quotes Cotte as saying that the hidden image lacks both Mona Lisa’s famed direct gaze and smile. The BBC quotes Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford, as saying that though Cotte’s images show Da Vinci’s artistic process, “they represent an evolution in the creation of the Mona Lisa rather than separate paintings.”

The Louvre Museum has refused to comment on Cotte’s claims, which the Newsweek describes as controversial.

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