Conference Le Saviez-Vous ? about Mona Lisa 17.JUN.2008 [in French]

Le Saviez-Vous ?

Conférence pour tous

We are glad to welcome Michel Menu [Head of Research Department in Palais du Louvre] for a new “Le Saviez-Vous ?” conference about Color appearance of Mona Lisa, Leonardo’s painting on Tuesday 17th of June at 19:00 in the auditorium of Rothschild7.

The laboratory of the C2RMF inside the Louvre analysed Leonardo’s famous painting to provide the best conditions for its installation in the new glass case and with the aim to understand in depth the master’s secret know how .

39 specialists undertook a comprehensive and pluridisciplinary study following a materialistic approach using non invasive techniques.

Being hidden, often ignored, the panel is a single plank of poplar wood, typical of Italian production from the second half of the 13th C. The careful examination reveals a transversal cut, close to the trunk’s core. The split in the panel was evident a long time ago and the present study proves its complete stability over time, probably contemporaneous of Leonardo himself.

The aim of the scientific examination was to look at the work in a new way, helped by the chemical analyses. The painting was realised through the superposition of several layers of hybrid materials, mixture of pigments and binding agents. Photographs in grazing light, with IR, UV fluorescence, X-ray put together permit a careful reading of the image and evidence the process of creation. The landscape, the loggia, the chair were better understood. Mona Lisa’s hair, covered by a veil, are arranged in a bun with only a few locks left free. The austere dark dress with no specific ornamentation is covered by a transparent gauze, a guarnello, garment worn by pregnant women.

Leonardo’s palette was evidenced by the analysis of the paint layer undertaken by XRF, Raman spectrometry and spectrophotometry. An optical characterisation of the sfumato reveals that it produced an optical effect similar to that created by the glazes in the Renaissance Flemish paintings. Finally, the relationship between colours could not depend solely on their juxtaposition, but also on a specific connection between two colours, such as those of the flesh tints and hair, with subtleties of transition (sfumato) that were intended by the artist.

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