Vita Gazette

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Another of the secrets of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa revealed!

Vita gazette – Leonardo Da Vinci’s technique to create the Mona Lisa has been revealed. Scientists who examined the chemical structure of a tiny part of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting revealed that the recipe for the oil paint used by the artist was different.

Scientists have obtained new findings regarding the techniques used by the Italian inventor, architect and painter Leonardo Da Vinci: plumbonacrite. This very rare and unstable mineral compound was discovered in the background layer of the famous portrait preserved in the Louvre and the Last Supper painted in Milan. Produced by mixing oil and lead oxide, its presence demonstrates the painter’s willingness to experiment, anticipating by centuries what other artists such as Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh later did. This was revealed by the analyses conducted by a team of experts from the National Center of French Scientific Research (Cnrs) thanks to the European super microscope ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility), the synchrotron light structure in Grenoble. The results are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The team, consisting of researchers from France and England, examined the chemical structure of a section as small as the diameter of a human hair from its upper right corner under X-ray light. The team revealed that the oil paint recipe used by the artist as the base layer on the poplar panel was different and found the chemical substance plumbonacrit, a rare compound, in the first paint layer of the painting.

If the substance plumbonacrit, a by-product of lead oxide, is mixed with oil paint, a thick layer appears on the canvas. Victor Gonzalez, the lead author of the study, stated that the hypothesis, previously put forward by art historians, that “the painter may have used ‘lead oxide powder’ to thicken his paint and help it dry when he started working on the portrait” was confirmed for the first time.

By analysing a microscopic sample of the Mona Lisa’s preparatory layer under synchrotron X-rays, “we found a relatively high amount of plumbonacrite, a compound that we think is due to a specific mixture of oil and lead oxide,” explains researcher Victor Gonzalez. Plumbonacrite was also found on fragments of Leonardo’s Last Supper, confirming Leonardo’s desire to innovate by preparing thick and opaque backgrounds treated with large quantities of lead oxide.

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