For the past 500 years, the Mona Lisa has reigned as the most famous piece of artwork in the world. Da Vinci’s masterpiece has been studied, visited, parodied and written about more than any other painting or sculpture, but there is still much we don’t know. Who was Mona Lisa? What does her infamous smile (or is it a smirk?) actually mean? Why didn’t Da Vinci leave behind more clues in his notebooks? These are long-debated questions, but now scientists have uncovered yet another baffling mystery, one that’s been hiding right in front of us.
Within the pigment of Mona Lisa’s hair and face is evidence that this painting was not the one Da Vinci originally set out to paint. The first Mona Lisa looks very different, and for reasons unknown, was painted over. Maybe Da Vinci was unhappy with his first work or perhaps he was just running out of canvas space – either way, it was the best decision he ever made.