I can recall sitting in history class being told Mona Lisa didn’t have eyebrows. My professor explained they had different standards of beauty 500 years ago. I believed it. My teenage mind conjured up weird scenarios in which girls at my school began re-adopting this trend. Bell bottoms… Modrobes… it didn’t seem too far-fetched.
My mind wandered further. I imagined women in Shakespearean times taking time out of their day to shave their eyebrows. I imagined conversations among women about how often this needed to be done. I forced it all to make sense and eventually it did. Every time I saw the Mona Lisa, I was reminded of the Naked-Face Beauty Hypothesis. That’s not an official hypothesis … but its what I call it.
In 2012, a cheap knockoff was revealed to be the work of Leonardo’s apprentice. The Prado Museum discovered a colourful, unfinished background behind some black over-paint. Chemical testing confirmed it was added sometime after 1750.
Infra-red and x-ray analysis confirmed identical details beneath the paint layers. This revealed a parallel process between master and pupil.
“…supporting the hypothesis of a workshop “duplicate” produced at the same time and with direct access to the gradual process of creation of Leonardo’s original work.” — Study of the Prado Museum’s copy of La Gioconda
Digital Restoration Process
The Prado colours and eyebrows were used as reference for the digital restoration of da Vinci’s original.
Using a high resolution (C2RMF) scan I reduced — but didn't remove — the appearance of cracks (eliminating them entirely would have made the image flat and uninteresting). I morphed the Prado ‘copy’ to match the original and used the colour replacement tool in Photoshop. Everything except the background and the intricate lacework was easy to replace.
Yet, despite all this work, I still look forward to seeing the creepy yellow version.