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Leonardo da Vinci


According to French scientist Pascal Cotte, an image of a portrait underneath the Mona Lisa has been found beneath the existing painting using reflective light technology.

Pascal Cotte said he has spent more than 10 years using the technology to analyze Leonardo’s most celebrated artwork.

He claims the earlier portrait lies hidden underneath the surface of the Mona Lisa painting.

A reconstruction shows another image of a sitter looking off to the side.

However, the Louvre Museum has declined to comment on Pascal Cotte’s claims because it “was not part of the scientific team”.Secret portrait under Mona Lisa

Instead of the famous, direct gaze of the painting which hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the image of the sitter also shows no trace of her enigmatic smile, which has intrigued art lovers for more than 500 years.

However, Pascal Cotte’s claims are controversial and have divided opinion among Leonardo experts.

The scientist, who is the co-founder of Lumiere Technology in Paris, was given access to the painting in 2004 by the Louvre.

Pascal Cotte has pioneered a technique called Layer Amplification Method (LAM), which he used to analyse the Mona Lisa.

It works by “projecting a series of intense lights” on to the painting, Pascal Cotte said. A camera then takes measurements of the lights’ reflections and from those measurements, the scientist said he is able to reconstruct what has happened between the layers of the paint.

The Mona Lisa has been the subject of several scientific examinations over more than half a century. More recent techniques include infrared inspections and multi-spectral scanning.

Pascal Cotte has claimed his technique is able to penetrate more deeply into the painting.

He said: “We can now analyze 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.”

Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have worked on the painting between 1503 and 1517 while working in Florence and later in France.

There has long been debate about the Mona Lisa’s identity. But for centuries, it has been widely believed that she is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.

However, Pascal Cotte has claimed his discoveries challenge that theory. He believes the image he has reconstructed underneath the surface of the painting is Leonardo’s original Lisa, and that the portrait named Mona Lisa for more than 500 years is, in fact, a different woman.

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

“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.”

He also claims to have found two more images under the surface of the painting – a shadowy outline of a portrait with a larger head and nose, bigger hands but smaller lips.

Pascal Cotte says he has found another Madonna-style image with Leonardo’s etchings of a pearl headdress.

Italian scientists have opened a Florence tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The tomb contains the family of Lisa Gherardini, a silk merchant’s wife who is believed to have sat for the artist.

It is hoped DNA will help to identify her from three skeletons found last year in a nearby convent.

Experts have for centuries puzzled over the woman featured in the Mona Lisa, and the reason for her cryptic smile.

To find the DNA they needed, scientists cut a round hole in the stone church floor above the family crypt of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The tomb lies behind the altar of the Santissima Annunziata Basilica.

Writer and researcher Silvano Vinceti plans to compare DNA from the bones with that of three women buried at the nearby convent of Saint Ursula.

Lisa Gherardini died there as a nun in 1542.

Italian scientists have opened a Florence tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Italian scientists have opened a Florence tomb to extract DNA they hope will identify the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

It is hoped that some of the bones will belong to at least one of her blood relation, probably her son, Piero.

“When we find a match between mother and child – then we will have found the Mona Lisa,” said Silvano Vinceti.

He added that once a DNA match is made, an image of Lisa Gherardini’s face can be generated from the skull and compared with the painting.

Leonardo da Vinci took about 15 years to complete what has become one of the most famous paintings of all time.

One of the artist’s favourite paintings, he carried it with him until he died in 1519.

It was acquired by King Francis I, who ruled France from 1515 to 1547. The painting was put on permanent display in the Louvre in Paris at the end of the 18th century.

The piece was stolen from the museum in 1911 by a former employee who believed it belonged in Italy.

He was apprehended by police two years later, and the Mona Lisa was safely returned.

While its small size can surprise Louvre visitors, the painting is the biggest attraction in the museum.

One popular, if unlikely, theory suggests it was a self-portrait.

There are similarities between the facial features of the Mona Lisa and of the artist’s self-portrait painted many years later, with some suggesting this is the reason behind the portrait’s famed enigmatic smile.

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Miley Cyrus got a new tattoo on her forearm on Friday – a mini replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical heart drawing.

Celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D did the inking, tweeting the results on her Twitter page.

“Just did the RADDEST tattoo on @MileyCyrus,” she wrote.

 “A miniature rendition of a da Vinci anatomical heart!”

The star also posted the original black and white illustration next to the photograph.

Miley Cyrus, 20, was clearly proud of the new inking, retweeting Kat Von D’s post.

Miley Cyrus got a new tattoo on her forearm, a mini replica of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical heart drawing

Miley Cyrus got a new tattoo on her forearm, a mini replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical heart drawing

The star got her tattoo underneath an existing inking of roman numerals.Miley Cyrus has several tattoos already including the word “love” on the inside of her right ear, a pair of crossed arrows on her back and a cross, heart and peace sign on her fingers.

She also has the phrase “just breathe” on her chest and an equals sign on her finger representing marriage equality.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, 23, even have matching tattoos – different quotes from a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Miley Cyrus has been spotted without her engagement ring, fueling rumors her engagement to Liam Hemsworth has been called off.


Italian specialist art theft police have tracked down and brought home a 400-year-old copy of a lost Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece – an incomplete fresco painting of the Battle of Anghiari.

It once decorated a wall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the Tuscan city’s monumental town hall.

The copy is temporarily on show until the New Year at the Quirinal Palace in Rome, the official residence of the president of Italy.

Battle of Anghiari painting shows a group of men-at-arms and knights on horseback engaged in close combat, fighting for possession of a flag.

The historic battle between Florence and its allies against a numerically superior force from Milan took place in 1440, and the Florentines won.

Art historians believe that Leonardo Da Vinci, experimenting with various fresco painting techniques, started painting the battle scene in 1503, using sketches he had been preparing for years.

But he never completed the project. The paint began to drip after he applied color to the walls.

Trying to save what he could, he applied large charcoal braziers close to the painting. But the colors intermingled and only part of the fresco was completed.

Within a few years, after the fresco had deteriorated, the Hall of the Five Hundred was restructured and Giorgio Vasari was commissioned by the local ruler to paint a different battle scene to replace Leonardo’s flawed work.

Italian specialist art theft police have tracked down and brought home a 400-year-old copy of a lost Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, an incomplete fresco painting of the Battle of Anghiari

Italian specialist art theft police have tracked down and brought home a 400-year-old copy of a lost Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, an incomplete fresco painting of the Battle of Anghiari

Giorgio Vasari, later a biographer of Leonardo Da Vinci, actually saw the cartoon, or preliminary drawing on paper of the battle scene, which he described in glowing terms.

“It would be impossible to express the inventiveness of Leonardo’s design for the soldiers’ uniforms, or the crests of the helmets, not to mention the incredible skill he demonstrated in the shape and features of the horses, which Leonardo, better than any other master, created with their boldness, muscles and graceful beauty,” he wrote.

So we only have copies to enable us to imagine Leonardo Da Vinci’s original design.

Peter Paul Rubens, using an engraving done 50 years after Leonardo started his project, did a masterly drawing of the Battle of Anghiari which is now in the Louvre in Paris.

“The idea that an ancient copy of a lost artwork can be as important as the original is familiar to scholars,” says Salvatore Settis, archaeologist and art historian.

“Most important original Greek bronze statues were lost when they were melted down and are known today only through marble copies done by admiring Romans centuries later,” he told a packed lecture at which details of the copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece were revealed to the public.

The painting – on a small wooden panel measuring 115 x 86 cm (45×34 in) – was last seen in public 73 years ago on the eve of World War II, when it was shown at a Leonardo exhibition in Milan.

Then it disappeared.

But the Italian carabinieri police department which specializes in art theft patiently managed to track the clandestine life of the painting – known as the Doria panel from the name of the family in whose art collection it had remained for three centuries.

After being stolen from its owners in Naples, the panel passed into the possession of a Swiss art dealer, was sent to Germany for restoration in the 1960s, then turned up briefly at a New York art gallery in the 1970s before ending up in the collection of a wealthy Japanese art collector in the 1990s.

The painting will be shown at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence during 2013 and will then go on loan for four years back to Japan – under an agreement worked out with the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo, where it was last exhibited.

Meanwhile, at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, work has been suspended on a project by an Italian engineer Maurizio Seracini who has been trying to prove scientifically by taking microscopic samples of pigment from the wall that Leonardo’s lost painting may still be hidden under Giorgio Vasari’s later battle scene.

Earlier this year, the mayor of Florence ordered a stop to all invasive technology inside the Hall of the Five Hundred.

So for the moment, the battle between scientists analyzing layers of pigment and ancient walls with space age technology, and scholars who insist that they have documentary evidence that Leonardo Da Vinci’s original Battle of Anghiari no longer exists has ended in a truce.

Celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London with your neighbors by hosting a Big Jubilee Lunch.

Big Jubilee Lunch in London




The Big Lunch is an annual nationwide event which encourages people across the UK to enjoy lunch with their neighbors.

This year The Big Lunch falls on the same weekend as The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which is a four-day Bank Holiday weekend. So dust off the bunting and Union Jack flags from the Royal Wedding and enjoy a lunch fit for The Queen!

All you have to do is gather together your neighbors and choose what kind of an event you want – from a small gathering raising money for charity to a full-blown street party with music and a barbeque.

How to Organize a Big Jubilee Lunch


Every year since it began in 2009, The Big Lunch has been enjoyed by more than a million people, and this year’s special Big Jubilee Lunch is likely to attract even more participants.

If you want to get involved and set up your own local event, follow the “10 Steps to Organizing a Big Lunch Guide” on the Big Lunch website.

You can also request a Big Jubilee Lunch pack, containing advice as well as posters, leaflets and recipes.


The Central Weekend 2 – 5 June 2012




The Central Weekend to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee takes place from Saturday 2 June to Tuesday 5 June 2012, with celebratory activities throughout the UK and across the Commonwealth

If you are considering visiting central London to join in with the celebrations, you may find it useful to visit the Transport for London website

Alternatively, you may wish to consider watching events on one of the many BBC Big Screens around the UK.

For information about the Official Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Programme click here.

Here is our run-down  of events over the Diamond Jubilee weekend, including approximate timings:

Saturday 2 June, 2012


The Queen will attend the Epsom Derby.

Sunday 3 June, 2012


The Big Jubilee Lunch: Building on the already popular Big Lunch initiative, people will be encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This may take the form of a traditional street party or a picnic lunch in small or larger groups. This event is being organised by the Big Lunch. Find out more.

The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant: This event will take place on the Thames and consist of up to 1,000 boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will travel in the Royal Barge which will form the centrepiece of the flotilla. Find out more

Approximate timings are as follows:

14:30BST – The Queen embarks the Royal barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, near Albert Bridge  

16:15BST  – The Royal Barge comes alongside HMS President (Royal Naval Reserve Unit), near Tower Bridge  

Monday 4 June, 2012


BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace: There will be a televised Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace with tickets being available to UK residents by public ballot. The musical programme for the concert is still being planned and is expected to feature British and Commonwealth musicians. Details on how to apply for the concert will be available in due course. This event is being organised by the BBC. Find out more

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons: A network of 2,012 Beacons will be lit by communities and individuals throughout the United Kingdom, as well as the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Commonwealth. As in 2002, The Queen will light the National Beacon. Find out more

Approximate timings are as follows:

19:30BST  – Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace begins

After 22:30BST – The Queen lights the National Beacon outside Buckingham Palace 


Tuesday 5 June, 2012


On Tuesday 5 June, the Diamond Jubilee weekend will culminate with a day of celebrations in central London, including a service at St Paul’s Cathedral followed by two receptions, a lunch at Westminster Hall, a Carriage Procession to Buckingham Palace and finally a Balcony appearance, Flypast, and Feu de Joie. Find out more.

Download the Order of Service

Approximate timings are as follows:

10:15BST – The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace by car

10:30-11.30BST – Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s  

12.30BST – The Queen travels by car from Mansion House to the Palace of Westminster

14:20BST – Carriage Procession from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace commences

Approximately 15:25BST – Royal Family appear on the Balcony at Buckingham Palace 



Top 10 Art Exhibitions in London




Don’t miss out on the best London exhibitions! Catch one of these great London exhibitions as chosen by our editorial team.


Damien Hirst at Tate Modern



A shark suspended in formaldehyde, a bisected cow and calf… Damien Hirst is well-known for his imaginative and sometimes shocking works. This April, Tate Modern unveils the first substantial survey of Damien Hirst’s work ever held in the UK, featuring more than 70 iconic pieces. Until 9 Sep


Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain


The influence of Picasso on British art and artists has rarely been recognized – until now, thanks to Tate Britain’s new exhibition. Picasso and Modern British Art explore the Spanish artist’s reputation in Britain, and looks at how Picasso’s work affected British modernism and inspired British artists. Until 15 Jul


British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age


In this Olympic year the Victoria & Albert Museum celebrates the best of British art and design since London last held the Olympic Games, in 1948. The exhibition brings together more than 300 objects from the fields of fashion, ceramics, graphics, photography, sculpture, product design, architecture, furniture and fine art. Until 12 Aug


Yayoi Kusama



One of Japan’s best-known living artists, Yayoi Kusama’s work spans more than six decades. Kusama is known for her immersive artworks and at this Tate Modern exhibition you can wander through a series of rooms covered in hallucinatory polka dots, mirrors and more. Until 5 Jun

Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude



Turner’s daring painting technique dazzled audiences at the beginning of the 19th century and influenced future generations of artists. This National Gallery exhibition examines how Turner was inspired by Claude’s portrayal of light and landscape, and features pictures by Turner and Claude hung side-by-side. Until 5 Jun


Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames at the National Maritime Museum


As well as being The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, 2012 sees the 75th birthday of the National Maritime Museum. Royal River celebrates them both by exploring the relationship between British monarchs and the River Thames throughout history. Royal River is curated by one of Britain’s leading historians, David Starkey. Until 9 Sep


Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at the Queen’s Gallery


Don’t miss the largest-ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Da Vinci produced amazingly accurate anatomical drawings. His research included working in hospitals and medicals schools, where he dissected human and animal material. Until 7 Oct


Christian Louboutin at the Design Museum


This Design Museum offers a unique retrospective of famous shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s work and a preview of his next collection. Using items from Christian Louboutin’s personal archive the exhibition showcases his designs, methods and inspirations over the past 20 years. Until 9 Jul


The Queen: Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery


To celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the National Portrait Gallery is bringing together 60 images from The Queen’s 60-year reign. See how The Queen has been portrayed through painting, photography and press images by renowned artists and photographers. Until 21 Oct


Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition


Don’t miss the highly popular summer exhibition at the Royal Academy, now in its 244th year. Displaying some of the best of contemporary art, the exhibition features more than 1,200 works by both new and distinguished artists, many of which are available to purchase. 4 Jun-12 Aug



The largest exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the human body goes on display in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in UK this week.

During his lifetime, Leonardo da Vinci made thousands of pages of notes and drawings on the human body.

Leonardo da Vinci wanted to understand how the body was composed and how it worked. But at his death in 1519, his great treatise on the body was incomplete and his scientific papers were unpublished.

Based on what survives, clinical anatomists believe that Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical work was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and in some respects it can still help us understand the body today.

So how do these drawings, sketched more than 500 years ago, compare to what digital imaging technology can tell us today?

From a notebook dated 1489, there are a series of meticulous drawings of the skull.

Leonardo da Vinci has cut off the front of the face to show what lies beneath. It is difficult to cut these bones without damaging them. And elsewhere in his papers, he left a drawing of the knives he used.

According to Peter Abrahams, professor of clinical anatomy at Warwick University in the UK, Leonardo da Vinci’s image is as accurate as anything that can be produced by scientific artists working today.

“If you actually know your anatomy, you can see all the tiny little holes that are in the skull,” says Prof. Peter Abrahams.

“Those are absolutely anatomically correct. Leonardo was a meticulous observer, and a meticulous experimental scientist. He drew what he saw, and he had the ability to draw what he saw absolutely perfectly.”

According to Prof. Peter Abrahams, the upper half of the drawing of a torso is a fairly accurate observation of the body. The liver, for example, is correctly placed not far below the woman’s right breast. Its size suggests that the woman may have suffered from liver disease.

Leonardo da Vinci's image is as accurate as anything that can be produced by scientific artists working today, say experts

Leonardo da Vinci's image is as accurate as anything that can be produced by scientific artists working today, say experts

The problems with the image start lower down, however. Clinical anatomist Prof. Peter Abrahams says that the uterus is wrong. This image, he suggests, is reminiscent of what we see in animals such as cows.

It is possible that given the difficulty of getting hold of female corpses, Leonardo da Vinci used the knowledge that he had gained from dissecting animals to help him understand the human body.

On the right arm, there is a finger print which has smudged the line of the drawing. It could very well be Leonardo da Vinci’s own.

The spinal column shown here is thought to be the first accurate depiction in history.

Leonardo da Vinci’ spinal column drawing is thought to be the first accurate depiction in history

Leonardo da Vinci’ spinal column drawing is thought to be the first accurate depiction in history

According to Prof. Peter Abrahams, Leonardo da Vinci perfectly captured the delicate curve and tilt of the spine, and the snug fit of one vertebra into another.

This drawing by itself would have secured Leonardo da Vinci a place in history. As far as two-dimensional images go, it is as good as anything produced today.

But it is just one of a series of drawings in which he pushed forward the frontiers of science. He dissected and wrote up his investigations into every bone in the human body, except the skull.

Prof. Peter Abrahams suggests that it was Leonardo’s skill as an architect and engineer that gave him the insight in to how the body actually works.

“This mechanistic approach, this engineering-approach, has only become really popular in the field of surgery within the last 50 or 60 years,” says Peter Abrahams.

“There are still many people doing research on all these little ligaments and pulleys to this very day all over the world.”

Despite his desire to draw the body accurately, Leonardo da Vinci was still wedded to certain ideas that he had inherited from Middle Ages. He still, for instance, thought of the human reproductive system as in some way analogous to that of plants.

“All seeds have an umbilical cord which is broken when the seed is ripe,” writes Leonardo da Vinci.

“Likewise they have a uterus and membranes, as herbs and all seeds that are produced in pods demonstrate.”

Below his embryo, Leonardo da Vinci sketched the uterus opening like the petals of a flower.

When he died, the treatise he planned to write was left incomplete. His detailed drawings were left to his assistant Melzi. Ground-breaking observations including the flow of blood in to the heart were lost to science.

Anatomists such as Prof. Peter Abrahams believe that Leonardo da Vinci’s work was some 300 years ahead of its time, and in some ways superior to what was available in the 19th Century Gray’s Anatomy.

They say it is only recently with 3D, digital technology and moving images that we have been able to take a decisive step beyond what Leonardo da Vinci’s hand and eye were able to achieve.

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Italian art researchers say they may have found traces of a Leonardo Da Vinci work hidden under a Florentine fresco.

Tiny probes, sent through drilled holes in Giorgio Vasari’s The Battle of Marciano in the Palazzo Vecchio, found black pigment also used in the Mona Lisa, project workers claimed.

“These data are very encouraging,” said the project’s leader Maurizio Seracini.

However, art historians at a press conference in Florence stressed their research was “not conclusive”.

They added that further chemical analysis needed to be carried out.

“Although we are still in the preliminary stages of the research and there is still a lot of work to be done to solve this mystery, the evidence does suggest that we are searching in the right place,” said Maurizio Seracini, who works at the University of California in San Diego.

The probes also discovered red lacquer and brown pigment on the hidden wall.

The research has been controversial, with some art experts signing a petition to stop the investigation because the drilling is damaging Giorgio Vasari’s existing work.

Tiny probes, sent through drilled holes in Giorgio Vasari's The Battle of Marciano in the Palazzo Vecchio, found black pigment also used in the Mona Lisa

Tiny probes, sent through drilled holes in Giorgio Vasari's The Battle of Marciano in the Palazzo Vecchio, found black pigment also used in the Mona Lisa

Tomaso Montanari, an art historian who has led the opposition to the research said that he did not “consider the source of these findings credible.”

He added: “What do they mean by saying the findings are compatible with Leonardo? Any painting from the Renaissance would be. Anything from that era could be painted on that wall.”

“What lacked here is a neutral team that has the scientific authority to evaluate this. It is very complex.”

Maurizio Seracini believes Leonardo Da Vinci’s unfinished The Battle of Anghiari lies beneath Giorgio Vasari’s work.

It is believed Leonardo Da Vinci started painting his fresco – which is considered by some to be his finest work – in 1504 but abandoned the project because of problems arising from his experimental oil painting technique.

The room was later renovated and Giorgio Vasari painted his fresco in 1563.

Maurizio Seracini believes Giorgio Vasari did not want to destroy Leonardo Da Vinci’s work and instead bricked it up behind a new wall on which he painted.

His theory was stimulated after finding a soldier on Giorgio Vasari’s work holding a small flag bearing the words: “He who seeks, finds.”

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An artwork thought to be the earliest replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been discovered at Madrid’s Prado Museum.

Prado Museum said it did not realize its significance until a recent restoration revealed hidden layers.

The artwork features the same female figure, but had been covered over with black paint and varnish.

The painting is thought to have been created by one of Leonardo’s students alongside the 16th century original.

There are dozens of surviving Mona Lisa replicas from the 16th and 17th centuries – when, as a new US exhibition illustrates, copying famous artworks was a thriving business.

The Art Newspaper, which reported the discovery, said the “sensational find will transform our understanding of the world’s most famous picture”.

The original painting, which currently hangs at the Louvre in Paris, is obscured by several layers of old, cracked varnish.

The Art Newspaper said the removal of the black paint on the replica had revealed "the fine details of the delicate Tuscan landscape", which mirrors the background of Leonardo's masterpiece

The Art Newspaper said the removal of the black paint on the replica had revealed "the fine details of the delicate Tuscan landscape", which mirrors the background of Leonardo's masterpiece

However, cleaning and restoration is thought to be too risky because the painting is fragile.

The Art Newspaper said the removal of the black paint on the replica had revealed “the fine details of the delicate Tuscan landscape”, which mirrors the background of Leonardo’s masterpiece.

Martin Bailey, who reported on the discovery for the paper, said: “You see Lisa’s eyes, which are quite enticing, and her enigmatic smile. It actually makes her look much younger.”

In fact, the new painting has led experts to speculate that the woman who sat for the Renaissance Masterpiece was in her early 20s – much younger than the Louvre’s original appears to show.

As the replica remained hidden for so long under the overpaint, experts had believed it was painted long after Leonardo’s death.

But after using x-rays to analyze the original drawings underneath, conservators have concluded the work was carried out at the same time as Leonardo’s original.

Prado Museum presented its findings at a conference on Leonardo da Vinci at London’s National Gallery.

There is still some restoration to complete on the painting but, once it is finished, it will be exhibited at the Louvre in March, allowing visitors to compare the two works.

Artist Ron Piccirillo claims to have cracked a 500-year-old mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa – by spotting a series of zoo animals hidden in the painting.

Ron Piccirillo, an amateur oil painter and graphic designer based in New York, believes it is possible to see the heads of a lion, an ape and a buffalo floating in the air around the subject’s head along with a crocodile or snake coming out of the left hand side of her body.

He says he followed a series of instructions set out by the artist Leonardo da Vinci to decipher the image and claims his discovery cracks open the meaning of the work, painted in 1519.

The secret is that the Mona Lisa is actually a representation of envy.

The theory is likely to lead to controversy among art critics, many of whom having theories of their own about the painting and the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile.

Ron Piccirillo claims to have found similar hidden images in works by other Renaissance painters such as Titian and Rafael.

It was when he turned the painting on its side that he first noticed the lion’s head.

Artist Ron Piccirillo claims to have cracked a 500-year-old mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa - by spotting a series of zoo animals hidden in the painting

Artist Ron Piccirillo claims to have cracked a 500-year-old mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa - by spotting a series of zoo animals hidden in the painting

Ron Piccirillo said: “Then I noticed the buffalo and I thought: <<Oh my God>>. Then I realized I was really onto something. I just could not believe what I was looking at. I realized, <<this is what I’ve been looking for>>.”

The artist also said he had found either a crocodile or snake by following the instructions of Leonardo da Vinci’s journals.

Looking at the painting from a 45 degree angle from the left, the path that runs in the scenery behind the Mona Lisa appears almost serpentine.

This was supposedly where the angle of the light was best and led to the least amount of reflection. From a diagram in Leonardo da Vinci’s journals which explained this, Ron Piccirillo called it the “D-point”.

The instructions also called for the viewer to put their eyes on the same level as the horizon in the painting.

From this he was able to make sense of the line in the passage about how to paint envy which reads: “Make her heart gnawed by a swelling serpent”, as there is such a creature emerging from her right breast.

Ron Piccirillo then spent two months pouring over the Leonardo da Vinci’s journals before coming up on a passage about envy.

“It’s amazing because everyone thought that da Vinci never wrote about the Mona Lisa, but now it appears that he did.”

The passage in question talks about how the artist trying to paint envy must “give her a leopard’s skin, because this creature kills the lion out of envy and by deceit” – a reference to the hidden lion’s head.

Once Ron Piccirillo cracked that everything else fell into place.

He said: “This is really about viewing perspective. Imagine standing in front of an oval line drawing. It is obviously an oval, but if you view it from the left or right, at a large enough angle, the oval turns into a circle.

“This is the key to understanding how Leonardo and many other Renaissance artists hid subjects in their artwork. If you know to look for them, they are there.

“I don’t know why this has been missed for so long and I can’t tell you what it means – that’s one for the art historians.

“Da Vinci could have been using horses heads as some kind of religious code, but as to why they are hidden I have no idea.

“It’s not every day you spot something that has gone unnoticed for 500 years.”

Ron Piccirillo added: “It is not just in da Vinci’s works.

“I have seen these hidden images in works by Titian and Rafael and also all over the Sistine Chapel.”

Last year Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage claimed revealed that magnification of high-resolution images of the Mona Lisa’s eyes has revealed letters and numbers.

Infra-red images have also revealed Leonardo da Vinci’s preparatory drawings that lie behind layers of varnish and paint.

Leonardo da Vinci began work on the painting in 1503, and it now hangs in the Louvre in Paris in a concrete, climate-controlled bunker where she can only be viewed through two sheets of bulletproof glass set 25 cm apart.

The work, also known as “La Gioconda”, is believed to have portrayed the wife of Francesco del Giocondo.

The title is a play on her husband’s name, and also means “the jolly lady” in Italian.

The fight to uncover Leonardo da Vinci’s hidden battle scene

A row between art historians over the uncovering of Leonardo da Vinci’s “hidden” but finest work is reaching a climax.

The Battle of Anghiari is believed to have been painted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence underneath a 16th century fresco and has been the subject of an argument for the last 35 years.

The Battle of Anghiari is believed to have been painted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence underneath a 16th century fresco and has been the subject of an argument for the last 35 years

The Battle of Anghiari is believed to have been painted in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence underneath a 16th century fresco and has been the subject of an argument for the last 35 years

To see if the painting really is there could see the destruction of the fresco and 150 art experts from around the world have been protested against the speculative work.

Last week a 2 cm cavity was drilled into the wall, according to the Guardian, and there were traces of an organic pigment found by a tiny camera inserted into the wall.

The work is being done by Maurizio Seracini who features in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

The fresco that is currently in place is the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana by Giorgio Vasari and was painted in 1543, nearly 60 years after Leonardo da Vinci started his work.

The painting technique, used experimenting with an oil paint technique, was not successful and he abandoned the work, unfinished. Copies, however, have been made by other artists such as Ruben’s drawing which hangs in the Louvre.

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