Brow-Raising 'Mona Lisa' Discovery

The "Mona Lisa" may have a few secrets still, but at least one of the mysteries surrounding Leonardo da Vinci's 16th-century masterpiece has been solved: The lady does indeed have eyebrows.

Using a high-tech camera, a French engineer has uncovered what has long been held as a fact about the painting, that its subject was painted without eyebrows or eyelashes.

That assumption, according to Pascal Cotte, was wrong. Cotte, a French photographer and engineer, used a 240 million-pixel camera to photograph the painting outside of its glass encasing at the Louvre in Paris. The camera used infrared technology and strong illumination to scan the painting.

With his camera, the engineer was able to virtually peel back layers of the painting revealing how it looked when it was originally painted. The images are currently being shown in San Francisco with a traveling exhibit about the painter.

In the process of photographing and scanning the images, Cotte discovered that the "Mona Lisa's" eyebrows and eyelashes were originally painted on the piece. They disappeared either because of a botched attempt to clean the painting or because the paint's oil and pigment faded over time.

Through the photographs, Cotte also learned the order in which da Vinci painted the "Mona Lisa" and spotted drawings underneath the paint that show a change in the position of her fingers.

The images also revealed the touch-up the painting was given in 1956 to repair damage it suffered after a rock was thrown at the painting.

The exhibit, "Da Vinci: An Exhibition of Genius," runs in San Francisco's Metreon Center through the end of the year.

The Mona Lisa was incorrectly identified in this story as having been painted on canvas. It is in fact painted on wood. It has been corrected.

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