Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mona Leo

High magnification techniques of the pupils of the Mona Lisa has revealed letters and numbers, placed there by Leonardo da Vinci. Although the numbers and letters have lost some definition in the 500 years since it was painted, experts believe that amongst the letters are LV, the initials of the artist's name. They have not worked out what the remainder of the letters and numbers designate. The search was initiated after an Italian expert discovered an old book in an antique shop which referred to symbols in the Mona Lisa’s eyes.

Permission is being sought by other experts to exhume da Vinci’s remains from his tomb at Amboise Castle in France’s Loire Valley. It is hoped to locate Da Vinci’s skull and to recreate his face so as to determine whether the hypothesis that the Mona Lisa is actually a self portrait, is correct.

News report, The Daily Mail, 13 December 2010

(The following item is a repost of an earlier email Bytes).

The hypothesis that the Mona Lisa is a self portrait of da Vinci is commonly referred to as Mona Leo.

Some years ago, American artist Lilllian F Schwartz (1927 - ) began using computer technology to create and manipulate works of art. She was one of the first to do so. In addition she has written books about the influence and role of computers in art and is a pioneer in computer film art.

Schwartz has also used computers in investigative and analytical work, especially in relation to the art of Leonardo da Vinci. In one such instance Schwartz used 3D computer modelling to show that the lines on the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan match the perspective lines of Leonardo's Last Supper, showing that his fresco may have been designed and intended to appear as an extension of the room within which the monks would have been sitting.

Schwartz’s most famous and controversial works is Leo Mona, in which she suggests that the Mona Lisa is a self portrait by da Vinci.

Using a computer, Schwartz spliced one half of the Mona Lisa to one half of Leonardo’s only self portrait, showing that the eye, eyebrow, nose and chin align in a remarkable symmetry.

(Click on images to enlarge).
Fans of Dan Brown’s The da Vinci Code will have no trouble accepting the hypothesis but others are more reluctant to support Schwartz. They argue that there are bound to be similarities when the same hand is responsible for both portraits, and when both are in the same style. Others argue that there is no evidence that the purported self portrait of da Vinci relied upon is a self portrait of the artist as an old man.

There is no clear answer and a final determination will probably never be made. On the one hand, the similarities are striking, but computer manipulation and morphing can make anything possible. Some critics argue that different juxtapositions of images creates a result that is markedly different from Schwartz’s image:

More recently, Schwartz has suggested that the face on the Shroud of Turin is that of da Vinci, who created it with a sculpture of his own head and using pioneering photographic techniques. A UK television station broadcast a program in July 2009 putting forward the hypothesis:

Like many, Einstein included, who had their 15 minutes of fame and then come up with more and more outlandish claims and theories to preserve their prominence, Schwartz’s most recent claim is bizarre. It ignores the fact that the Shroud is referred to in an artefact at least 100 years before da Vinci was born.

Your choice, readers, but one fact will remain: you will probably never see Mona in the same light again.


  1. It's not a mystery. It's a love story staring us dead in the face.


  2. In all accounts, this mystery lies at the very heart of investigative capabilities, the absolute ingenious of Da Vinci, and in the plethora of incredible achievements that one mind is capable of.

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