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For centuries, people have been intrigued by her enigmatic smile but now there are new mysteries surrounding the Mona Lisa. If they're true -- it would be a magnificent discovery made right here in Rochester.
A local graphic designer and artist has found what he says are images of animals in the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.
Art from the Renaissance is noted for hidden images and meanings. Up to now - Mona Lisa has been famous for her smile but she's not alone on that canvass. He also found in the priceless painting the image of an ape's face, a lion and other animals.
While doing research for an art project, Ron Piccirillo used an old artist's trick of looking at a work from a different perspective. "The first couple of images, I spotted as I was doing research, I took the Mona Lisa and turned it on her side and noticed the ape's face and the lion's head."
He says he poured over passages in da Vinci's own notebook where he refers to the animals and other clues. And he highlighted the animal images and blew them up on a large screen to show them to us. "We have the nose, the eyes, we have the mouth and the whole ape face is highlighted and it's facing right. Over here we're looking at the lion's head which is also facing right. It's in the mountainous area but you can see its nose right here. It's almost roaring it seems to me, its eyes here. And the rest of it highlighted."
This is what they look like in this copy of the original Mona Lisa. "So you have the ape's face right here. You have the lion. I call it the roaring lion right here."
But there's more including a crocodile that could refer to a passage da Vinci wrote where he mentioned a serpent gnawing at Mona Lisa's heart -- which Piccirillo says da Vinci hid in her cleavage. "The crocodile head is behind the Mona Lisa. To the right is the eye, and to the left is the snout, its jaws open."
Again, Piccirillo was led by da Vinci's own hand -- notes he wrote down 500 years ago and re-printed for art and history scholars. He read from his da Vinci book, " 'Make her heart gnawed by a swelling serpent.' Five hundred years ago, it may have been considered a serpent. Well, there's a certain point where everything stops being a coincidence, and you have to start thinking a little more about it. The first time I saw the animals I was hooked. I didn't expect to see anything else after that, but I found one clue, then another, then another and it just kind of all came together."
The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most studied portrait in the last 500 years. We asked Piccirillo how is it that he's the first person to see this. He said, "I call it an accidental discovery. I'm not sure why I came on this and no one else hasn't."
The real Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Piccirillo studied at RIT and only briefly studied the Mona Lisa in art history class. His parents are from Italy.
What if I told you the Mona Lisa is an optical illusion – one painting hidden within another? Well it’s true. And that’s what my first post on this blog is about – and it’s not about the Da Vinci code or theory based on the numbers hidden in her eyes. Since making this discovery months ago, I have been waiting to let the world know of my findings – a secret that has been hiding for five hundred years. I will tell you all about that in a second.
Turning the painting around I looking at everything, eventually spotting what turned out to be a lion’s head, an ape head and a buffalo head. I knew I had stumbled upon something, and so I turned to a published book of Leonardo’s writings. I had first Googled this, but could not find anything on it. How could something like this have gone unnoticed for five hundred years?
Eventually, I came upon a passage that talked about Man, Horse, Lion and Buffalo. I also came across another passage from Leonardo about observing a painting. There were a few passages that seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces. I eventually put them together to figure out Leonardo’s secret vantage point, which I now refer to as the d-point. This perspective was the key to viewing the optical illusions that were never discovered before.