The Secret of Leonardo Da Vinci's Painting Technique Decoded

Paint directly on the canvas

By on September 3rd, 2007 08:49 GMT
The mysterious smile of Mona Lisa (Gioconda) now has run out of secrets, at least for the scientists.

What made the paintings of the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 - May 2, 1519) so special was the fact that he did not mix the colors on the palette but directly on the canvas, as found by an Italian team that reconstructed his technique step by step "as if watching him while he painted."

The researchers from the University of Florence investigated Leonardo's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" painting, being able to visualize virtually every stroke made by the universal genius.

Leonardo's technique differed completely from that of his contemporaries, who mixed colors on the palette. He applied directly on the canvas thin layers of paint, one on top of the other to achieve a rich texture.

"That Leonardo used the "velature" technique is already known, he himself wrote that in a treaty, but for the first time we have managed to reconstruct his work step by step, like as if watching him while he painted," said co-researcher Cecilia Frosinini.

"We have been able to understand what type of painting materials he used, how many layers of colors were applied and in what thickness and sequence." she added.

"The painting scrutinized belongs to a collection in New York that has been dubbed the "Ex-Reford" version. It is the only one of several versions of the image credited to the artist himself," stated the researchers.

The team employed a particle accelerator that launches particles at high speed to decode how Leonardo applied the paint layers. Leonardo's most famous paintings remain "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper", among the most reproduced paintings.

Besides a painter, the Italian genius was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist (you know the famous Vitruvian Man), sculptor, architect, musician and writer.

Many of his concepts were hugely ahead of time, like a helicopter, a tank, solar power, a calculator, the double hull and the theory of plate tectonics.

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