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A secret portrait has been discovered under the Mona Lisa and it could change everything

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The Mona Lisa is inarguably one of the most famous pieces of art in the world, and, with an insurance policy valued at around $782m, it’s also the most valued.

Certainly the most famous piece of work by super-polymath Leonardo da Vinci, with her subtle smile, Mona Lisa has captured the imagination of experts and art lovers alike for hundreds of years. And the interest doesn’t look like it’s going to die down any time soon.

Pascal Cotte, a French scientist has been studying the portrait for the last 10 years using reflective light technology to discover more about it’s origins and recent breakthroughs have discovered something very interesting indeed.

Namely: The Mona Lisa, might not actually be Lisa.

Cotte claims to have discovered a completely different portrait hidden behind the image we currently recognise as the Mona Lisa, suggesting that the original work could be something different entirely and could even result in the painting being renamed according to art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon.

Speaking to the BBC he said: “I have no doubt that this is definitely one of the stories of the century.”

“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 began studying the Mona Lisa in 2004, pioneering a technique called Layer Amplification Method which allows researchers to reconstruct what’s between the layers of paint that make up the image we currently see.

“The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo’s masterpiece forever, said Cotte.

“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.

Cotte’s findings have divided art experts, with Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford quoted by the Independent as saing: "The idea that there is a picture as it were, hiding underneath the surface is untenable.

“I do not think there are these discreet stages which represent different portraits. I see it as more or less a continuous process of evolution. I am absolutely convinced that the Mona Lisa is Lisa.”

The Secrets of the Mona Lisa airs on BBC Two at 9pm on 9 December.

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