French scientists crack secrets of mona lisa


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French scientists crack secrets of mona lisa

  1. 1. FRENCH SCIENTISTS CRACK SECRETS OF MONA LISA AP – This recent undated photo provided Friday July 23, 2010, by the CNRS (National Center ofScientific Research) …ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press Writer – Fri Jul 16, 9:38 pm ETPARIS – The enigmatic smile remains a mystery, but French scientists say they have cracked a few secrets of the"Mona Lisa." French researchers studied seven of the Louvre Museums Leonardo da Vinci paintings, including the"Mona Lisa," to analyze the masters use of successive ultrathin layers of paint and glaze - a technique that gave hisworks their dreamy quality.Specialists from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France found that da Vinci painted up to30 layers of paint on his works to meet his standards of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair, researcher Philippe Walter said Friday.The technique, called "sfumato," allowed da Vinci to give outlines and contours a hazy quality and create an illusionof depth and shadow. His use of the technique is well-known, but scientific study on it has been limited because testsoften required samples from the paintings.The French researchers used a noninvasive technique called X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to study the paintlayers and their chemical composition.They brought their specially developed high-tech tool into the museum when it was closed and studied the portraitsfaces, which are emblematic of sfumato. The project was developed in collaboration with the European SynchrotronRadiation Facility in Grenoble.The tool is so precise that "now we can find out the mix of pigments used by the artist for each coat of paint," Waltertold The Associated Press. "And thats very, very important for understanding the technique."The analysis of the various paintings also shows da Vinci was constantly trying out new methods, Walter said. In the"Mona Lisa," da Vinci used manganese oxide in his shadings. In others, he used copper. Often he used glazes, butnot always.The results were published Wednesday in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a chemistry journal.Tradition holds that the "Mona Lisa" is a painting of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco delGiocondo, and that da Vinci started painting it in 1503. Giorgio Vasari, a 16th-century painter and biographer of daVinci and other artists, wrote that the perfectionist da Vinci worked on it for four years.