For long, the world wondered about Mona Lisa’s mysterious half-smile. Now a few French and Canadian scientists, who went behind Leonard Da Vinci’s masterpiece, say they have decoded a part of her secret and it does not lie in the curve of her lip line: the woman in the painting with her hands gently folded over her stomach was either pregnant or had just had a baby.
Researchers of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), who used an advanced laser scanner to create the first 3D images of the painting and peered behind layers of paint, revealed the results on Tuesday. They said the woman wore a maternity garment, a fine gauze veil on her dress. It was the fashion of pregnant or nursing women of the time. The detail disappeared under yellow varnish and is no longer visible to the naked eye. "This is Mona Lisa as we have never seen her before," said NRC president Pierre Coulombe.
The 3D scans also revealed that the woman was originally painted with her hair tied back in a bun, even though today it appears loose on her shoulders. The revelation settles an old controversy because only girls or women of bad virtue wore their hair loose in 16th century Italy, said Bruno Mottin, project leader of France’s state museum agency. And the real Mona Lisa — Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine Francesco del Giocond — was a woman of social stature. Da Vinci worked on the painting all his life, probably changing her hair and other features.
A team of NRC researchers had travelled to Paris in October 2004 to study what is arguably the most viewed painting in the Louvre. The 3D scans were done over two nights and studied over a year.