MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — What's behind Mona Lisa's mysterious gaze? Art historians and scholars have been trying to answer that question for centuries. No one will ever know for sure, but scientists have discovered answers to other questions about Leonardo da Vinci's famous gal. Da Vinci - The Genius, a new exhibit at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), presents a comprehensive exploration behind the genius of the Italian Renaissance master.
Opening Saturday, Da Vinci - The Genius offers over 200 objects, including large scale interactive reproductions of Leonardo's machines, a presentation about the life and times of the artist, 3-D animations of his famous Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper, and Mona Lisa.
A special section of the exhibit, The Secrets of Mona Lisa, presents the findings of Pascal Cott, a French scientific engineer and fine art photographer who was granted unprecedented access to the iconic painting. Under strict security and supervision, Cott was able to examine the painting in the Louvre Museum, outside of the protective glass enclosure, even removed from the frame. He used a 240-million pixel camera which allowed him to see through the top paint surface to the layers below. Cott claims the Mona Lisa looked "totally different" when it was originally painted 500 years ago.
Twenty-five of the scientist's discoveries are revealed in the museum's new exhibit, some of which are:
- Mona Lisa's smile, glance and face were all wider;
- Her skin was not as yellow;
- The sky was not brownish-yellow, but blue;
- She was holding a blanket in her right hand;
- One of her left fingers was never completely finished;
- And most startling...Mona Lisa had eyebrows, eyelashes, and probably even a mustache!
Somewhere in the world Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q. is smiling.
Da Vinci - The Genius (Nov. 14, 2009 - June 13, 2010)
Museum of Science and Industry, UK | Website
[Photo: Marcel Duchamp. L.H.O.O.Q. (detail), 1919.]