November 28 2013 at 06:00pm By Amy McConaghy
A TRAVELLING exhibition displaying the genius of Leonardo da Vinci has opened in Cape Town. It includes full-scale models based on his inventions.
The exhibition, which opened yesterday, includes over 200 unique pieces, including 75 life-size machine inventions built using materials from Leonardo’s era and 3D renderings of his most notable Renaissance works.
However, the most fascinating element of the exhibition is the unveiling of 25 secrets of Da Vinci’s best-known masterpiece, the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda, as it is also known.
The “25 secrets” were conceptualised when French engineer and Leonardo da Vinci expert Pascal Cotte was approached by the Louvre to digitise the Mona Lisa, photographing the painting using his own invention of a cutting-edge 240 megapixel camera.
The process allowed Cotte unprecedented access to one of the most guarded artworks in the world – and he was even, as he put it, permitted to “spend the night with Mona Lisa”.
By taking scientific measurements of the reflection of light, he was able “to peel, like an onion, all the layers of the paint and chronologically reconstruct the painting”, unveiling the development behind one of the world’s most famous artworks.
The photographs revealed fascinating secrets surrounding the Mona Lisa and answered previously unanswerable questions.
Cotte said: “Just as I did, South Africans will surely feel the same small thrill of wonder and gratitude when they discover the secrets hidden in the painting – secrets ‘hidden’ in plain sight, I might add.”
One of the more astounding “secrets” is that the Mona Lisa was painted on poplar wood rather than canvas, something that, according to Cotte, more than 80 percent of the people visiting the Mona Lisa at the Louvre gallery in Paris, where it is on permanent display, are unaware of.
Also on display is Cotte’s 360-degree exact replica of the painting, the only one made. This is special because, in the Louvre, the painting is heavily guarded behind rope and bulletproof glass.
The exact replica allows visitors to examine it up close, from both the front and the back, which is fascinating in itself.