Da Vinci's Secret Art Technique

Jacques Franck, consultant scholar at the Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo Studies in LA, believes the Mona Lisa was painted in hundreds of sessions with a technique of ultra-fine hatching - or criss-crossing of brush strokes - some as tiny as a fortieth of a millimetre long. He says layers of extremely diluted oil paint were piled up on one another over many years - using perhaps 30 coats. For his finer work, Leonardo probably painted with a brush in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other. It was through this method, Franck says, that Da Vinci achieved the sublime effects which astonished and irritated fellow Italian painters at the time and have puzzled art historians ever since. Light and shadow on the enigmatic face and folded hands of the Mona Lisa move from one colour to another, and from one gradation of light to another, without perceptible "boundaries". Even the darkest shadows on her flesh seem to glow with an inner light. Other Renaissance painters went on to achieve something close to this effect. But Leonardo was the first to abolish the impression of a painting as a "coloured-in" drawing. His achievements in this area have been approached but never surpassed. Da Vinci took almost two decades to paint the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, nee Gherardini, a Florentine gentlewoman. The Mona Lisa (an English-language spelling mistake for monna, or "my lady", Lisa) is believed to be the only painting Leonardo finished to his own satisfaction. For the full story - click the title Irish Art