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Top 10 Hidden Secrets in the Mona Lisa

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher

There’s much more than a smile hidden in this classic work of art. From her smile, to the hidden clues, and the mistakes, these secrets reveal a whole new side to this revolutionary piece of art. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Hidden Secrets In The Mona Lisa.

Special thanks to our user ninou78 for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Hidden+Secrets+In+The+Mona+Lisa.


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Savannah Sher

Top 10 Hidden Secrets In The Mona Lisa

There’s much more than a smile hidden in this classic work of art. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hidden Secrets in the Mona Lisa.

For this list, we’re looking at details that experts have noted in examining this famous Da Vinci painting. Of course, all of this is speculation and we’ll never know what the grandmaster really intended.

#10: A Pregnancy

Hundreds of years after this work of art was created, the experts at the National Research Council of Canada used infrared technology to conduct a 3D scan of the work. Their findings caused Bruno Mottin of the "Center for Research and Restoration" at the French museum to make a shocking speculation. He says that these scans show Mona Lisa wearing a guarnello, which is a specific type of veil that was worn at the time by pregnant women or women who had recently given birth. Considering we still don’t even know for sure who the subject of the painting was, we’ll probably never know if she was pregnant or not.

#9: A Hidden Menagerie

Ron Piccirillo is an artist himself, and one day in studying the Mona Lisa decided to place the piece on its side in order to get a new perspective on it. What he found was what he thought to be several images of animals hidden in the background of the painting. He uses these findings to establish a complex theory about the theme of envy in the piece. Even Piccirillo himself can’t seem to parse all the clues though, saying "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.”

#8: The Landscape Came First

In the exhibition "Mona Lisa Secrets Revealed”, many details were uncovered in the painting using modern technologies. Pascal Cotte, who is behind the project, pointed out that Da Vinci actually painted the landscape in the background of the painting and then using precise painting techniques, added Mona Lisa’s transparent veil on top of it. Speaking of the landscape, many have wondered where exactly the painting is set, and the people of the city of Arezzo in Tuscany have claimed it as their own. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether this seems accurate!

#7: Sketches Underneath Show Da Vinci Made a Mistake

During the same round of research that discovered the veil painting technique, Pascal Cotte also noticed something when examining the layers underneath the final painting. It turns out, Da Vinci had a change of heart about a small detail of the painting. Cotte says, "If you look at the left hand you see the first position of the finger, and he changed his mind for another position.” He goes on to add that "even Leonardo da Vinci had hesitation." Hey, no one’s perfect, not even one of the greatest painters of all time!

#6: High Cholesterol

This one may seem like a stretch, but bear with us. In 2010, Dr Vito Franco of Palermo University published a paper at a Florentine medical conference making some surprising allegations about Mona Lisa’s health. He says that her depiction shows some biological signs of a condition called xanthelasma, which is linked to high cholesterol. He also stated that he can see signs of lipoma, or benign tumors under her skin that are made of fatty tissue. This is just one person’s opinion, so we really can’t be sure how accurate it is!

#5: Evidence That She Isn’t a Prostitute

The same infrared scans by the National Research Council of Canada that revealed Mona Lisa’s potential pregnancy also quashed a rumor that had been going around since the Renaissance. Because Mona Lisa’s hair appears to be loose in the image, many have speculated that she was a prostitute, since proper ladies would never have worn their hair in that manner. These scans showed however that while the naked eye can’t see it, her hair is actually held back and covered, contradicting many centuries of thought.

#4: She Does Have Eyebrows

One of the other factors that made scholars believe Mona Lisa may have been a prostitute is her obvious lack of eyebrows, because removing all signs of facial hair was common for sex workers at the time. In 2007, Pascal Cotte uncovered the fact that Mona Lisa has had eyebrows (and eyelashes) all along, they have just disappeared over time. Cotte said, "If I can find only one hair, only one hair of the eyebrow, I will have definitively the proof that originally Leonardo da Vinci had painted eyelash and eyebrow." And his wishes came true, because with advanced technology, he was able to find that one brushstroke.

#3: Signs She Wasn’t Sick

This could potentially go against Dr. Vito Franco’s claims of Mona Lisa’s various illnesses, but Pascal Cotte says that some of the markings on the painting that have led some to speculate that Mona Lisa was ill are actually just varnish accidents. People have read much into blotches on her chin and the corner of her eye, but Cotte found that these were not actually part of the original painting. We can only speculate when varnish was allowed to interfere with the integrity of the work, but we’re guessing it was a really long time ago.

#2: A Smile

One of the things that makes Mona Lisa so enigmatic of course is her smile, or lack thereof. Many have wondered about what the subject was thinking or feeling to make her express such a subtle yet clear sense of contentment, and many hours have been spent trying to parse her expression. At least one scholar, Harvard’s Margaret Livingstone, claims the reason her smile is hard to wrap your head around is that it is drawn in “low spatial frequencies.” That means it actually looks more like a smile when you’re looking at her eyes rather than her mouth, or when you’re viewing the piece from afar.

#1: The Code

Spawning both a bestselling book and blockbuster movie, the idea that there is a secret code hidden within Da Vinci’s work has taken off in the new millennium. While Dan Brown’s book received a fair amount of criticism for being historically inaccurate, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a grain of truth in his theory. The Italian National Committee for Cultural Heritage decided to delve into his claims, and did actually find some letters and symbols within the work. According to Silvano Vinceti, the president of the organization, "To the naked eye the symbols are not visible but with a magnifying glass they can clearly be seen.” What do they mean? We may never know.


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