Central to the exhibition is Pascal Cotte’s fascinating work investigating Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic portrait, The Mona Lisa. Cotte is the only person in the world who has been allowed to photograph the painting by The Louvre, the famous French museum where the original is housed.
Cotte has invented a 240 megapixel camera which has been used to peel away years of deterioration and restorations to reveal the original work done by Da Vinci. Among the 25 secrets revealed by Cotte are the colours used, the corrections done by the artist himself and even what the chair the subject is sitting in looked like.
The chair has been recreated and is included in the display. As well as enlarged images of aspects of the painting such as the subject’s hands and eyes, an exact replica has been made of both the front and back of the poplar board that Da Vinci painted on.
In another section of the exhibition, a number of Da Vinci’s conceptual inventions have been recreated by Italian artisans using materials available in his era. Many of the inventions form the basis of today’s modern machinery. For example, the Carro a Manovella, a crank-operated cart uses a differential like that of a modern car.
In a separate display area, Da Vinci’s accurate sketches of the human body are displayed in enlarged versions. The artist had to dissect bodies in secret as the practice was illegal at the time. The Gray’s Anatomy textbook uses a similar style in its diagrams today.
The exhibition is fascinating, and almost eerie. Interactive touch screens help the visitor to gain insight into Da Vinci’s time and the historical events that shaped his thinking.
It’s definitely worth a visit for history enthusiasts, lovers of Da Vinci’s work and anyone who is interested in what modern technology is capable of revealing about the past.