The Mona Lisa has always been a point of puzzlement for scientists and art historians. From disputes about the painting’s attribution to the identity of the woman depicted in it to fantastical stories about the eyes of ‘Gioconda’ following people who pass by her, it seems like there is always something we still do not know about this mysterious work of art. Turns out, the painting is not done with surprising the world just yet. After a new X-ray had been done on the spec of paint taken from Leonardo da Vinci’s famous piece, scientists finally confirmed one of their long-time theories.
The New Mona Lisa X-Ray Revealed the Presence of a Rare Chemical
It is not unheard of for scientists and art restorers to discover secrets about works of art that were created centuries ago. With current-day technology, it is now possible to look under the layers of a painting without damaging it and even find valuable historical information by analyzing a speck of dry oil paint.
A minuscule piece of paint extracted from the surface of The Mona Lisa was inspected using X-ray technology (don’t worry, the piece was almost microscopical). What was revealed as a result of the scan confirmed one of the theories about da Vinci’s painting technique the scientific community has been trying to prove for ages. It appeared that the master added lead oxide powder to thicken his oils.
But why is this so exciting? Well, the chemicals that were used to mix paint throughout history tell us a lot about the period the artwork was created. Historically, lead was often added to paint because it helped paintings dry quicker and look fresh for longer. What is particularly interesting about this discovery is that da Vinci’s piece shows one of the earliest, if not the earliest, examples of such paint mixing technique. None of other da Vinci’s works exhibit it, and neither do his students’ paintings.
The fact that the chemical compound was even detected is astonishing. The sample used for analysis was thinner than a hair, and its atomic structure was inspected using a particle accelerator.
The Mona Lisa, probably the most studied work of art in the world, still has a lot of secrets associated with it. While scientists work on resolving them, we will continue to fascinate ourselves with the mysteries enveloping one of the most beloved masterpieces in human history.