Scientists Uncover Rare Chemical Compound Linked to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ Masterpiece


The Mona Lisa, one of the most renowned and studied paintings in the world, still holds mysteries. Scientists recently used X-rays to investigate the chemical structure of a particle of the painting, and the findings suggest that Leonardo da Vinci may have been experimenting with his style during its creation. According to research published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the oil paint used by the Italian Renaissance artist in the Mona Lisa’s base layer has a chemical composition distinct from his other works and even those of his renowned contemporaries.

The presence of plumbonacrite, a rare chemical compound, has confirmed a long-standing hypothesis among art historians that Leonardo used lead oxide powder to thicken and harden the paint layers of the Mona Lisa. Victor Gonzalez, the study’s main author and a chemist at France’s CNRS, told the Associated Press, “He was someone who loved to experiment, and every single one of his paintings is technically unique.” On this initiative, scientists from CNRS, a prestigious research organization, collaborated with art historians. Gonzalez added, “It is interesting to note in this instance that there is a distinct technique for the Mona Lisa’s ground layer.”

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Remarkable Discovery of Rare Paint Particle in Old Master’s Art

Given the minuscule remnants of the plumbonacrite, the paper emphasizes how remarkable it was to even detect it. The particle of paint was virtually invisible to the unaided eye and slimmer than a strand of hair. Using X-rays produced by a synchrotron, a machine that accelerates charged particles through magnetics to nearly light speed, the scientists examined the atomic structure of the material.

This is not the first time plumbonacrite has been discovered in the works of Old Masters, despite its rarity. Gonzalez and his colleagues have discovered a Rembrandt painting, indicating that the same or very similar paint formulations have been passed down through the ages.

“There are certainly many, many more things to uncover. “We have only scratched the surface,” said Gonzalez. What we are saying is merely an addition to our knowledge.

The insatiably inquisitive and obstinate inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci (Fry) departs Italy to join the French court, where he can experiment freely, devise flying contraptions and extraordinary machines, and study the human body. Leonardo, accompanied on his mission by the audacious Princess Marguerite (Ridley), seeks the answer to the ultimate query, “What is the meaning of life?”


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