The Secret Numbers Hidden in Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is probably Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece Yet the painting is surrounded by a cloud of mystery

Many people have tried to identify the woman in the painting, known in Italy as La Gioconda Some believe her to be Lisa Gherardini Others think she could actually have been Leonardo’s assistant, Salaì, in a female guise And some even suggest the painting is, in fact, a self-portrait From her unreadable smile to her mysterious eyes, she has been the centre of theories and scandals for centuries

And thanks to author Dan Brown, in the past twenty years there has been renewed interest by experts and fans in finding the secret codes hidden within the Gioconda In 2011, Salvo Vinceti, president of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, stated that he believed numbers and letters are hidden in The Mona Lisa On this thesis, a research team, led by Vinceti and researcher Stefania Romano, started working on the project What they found surprised them Using modern technologies provided by the Paris Lumiere Centre, which often partnered with the Louvre, the research team was able to capture extremely high definition images of the painting

They discovered the letters LV in the right eye of the Gioconda, and CE or B in the left eye They could also see the number 72 between the arches of the bridge behind her Salvo Vinceti thinks 'LV' stands for Leonardo’s initials, and that the number 72 could be read as an L followed by a 2 However, Leonardo’s interest in religion and mysticism is no secret It is therefore quite possible that the hidden numbers and letters in his painting actually represent more than just the initials of the artist

As a full number, 72 appears in the Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, and in Christianity It is often found in religious contexts, having a comprehensive multitudes meaning But even when considered separately, ""7"" is full of symbolic associations in both Judaism and Christianity For instance, it can represent the 7th day of the creation of the world Meanwhile, the number 2 may be a reference to the duality of male and female – much like the androgynous figures throughout Da Vinci's art

Indeed, la Gioconda's enigmatic charm even caught the attention of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud In a 1910 essay, he tried to psychoanalyze Leonardo by studying his paintings Freud believed the Mona Lisa represented the artist’s mother, Caterina (/katerina/), seen as an ideal of the maternity or femininity Since Leonardo separated from his mother when he was just a child, Freud may have been onto something Surprisingly, an alphanumerical analysis of the painting might support Freud's theory

The Gematria is a Kabbalistic technique for interpreting the Hebrew scriptures by computing the numerical value of words, based on the values of their constituent letters If we created an alpha-numeric correspondence between for the letters of the Italian alphabet we can reduce the names “Mona Lisa” and “Caterina” – Leonardo's mother – to numbers and add them up We then take the two results and add these up At last, adding the remaining results that reveals the number 2 hidden in both the names “Mona Lisa” and “Caterina” But “Mona Lisa” is not the real name of the painting

Therefore, this technique may be fruitless However, it does help explain the recurrence of the number 2 in the symbolism of the painting Duality is one of the key themes in mysticism, which we know Da Vinci followed In the picture there are 2 columns in the background, a road in the shape of the number 2 in the landscape and a hand forming the number 2 This interpretation method also allows us to decode the hidden letters in the Mona Lisa’s eyes as tied to the number two as well

Is this all merely a coincidence? The Mona Lisa’s mystery begins long before Freud and the other specialists’ findings It all began at the painting's very creation It is thought Leonardo Da Vinci started working on the painting between 1503 and 1506 But, according to Martin Kemp, a professor emeritus of art history at Oxford and one of the world’s foremost Da Vinci scholars, there is no way to know for sure exactly when he started Just a year before Leonardo's death, his assistant Salaì sold the painting to King Francis I of France

After that, the picture travelled quite a lot It was first kept in the Palace of Fontainebleau, in France Then, Louis XIV moved it to the Palace of Versailles and, after the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, though it also spent a brief time in Napoleon’s bedroom But that’s not all! On the 21st August 1911, the painting was stolen by one of the Louvre's employees, Vincenzo Peruggia He entered the building during regular opening hours, hid in a broom cupboard, and walked out with the painting under his coat after the museum had closed

Peruggia was a self-described Italian patriot who believed Leonardo's painting should have been returned for display in an Italian museum He kept the painting hidden in his apartment for two years In the end, he tried to sell the painting to the director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and got arrested The Mona Lisa returned to the Louvre Such a journey is quite impressive for a painting of the 15th century

But, as we all know, La Gioconda is not an ordinary painting Unfortunately, everyone’s theories about it are based on some hidden numbers that could have been added to the picture later on La Gioconda has gone from hand to hand in the past How can we be so sure the symbols are all Leonardo’s? Well, Salvo Vinceti thinks so “You have to remember the picture is almost 500 years old so it is not as sharp and clear as when first painted

From the preliminary investigations we have carried out we are confident they are not a mistake and were put there by the artist” Vincenti’s thesis is supported by Boško Kontić, a Croatian engineer who invented the Polaris Diagram, a geometric diagram he constructed himself to analyze the Mona Lisa Kontić believes the main symbol in the painting is the number 56 For example, he thinks that above her right shoulder is the number 5, while above the left shoulder there’s the number 6 It’s well known Leonardo was left-handed

He used to write from right to left in mirror image characters, making his papers only readable with the help of a mirror Therefore, since the numbers five and six appear mirrored, they could well have been put there by Da Vinci Furthermore, Kontić believes that the number 56 is also expressed through Mona Lisa’s hands To explain it, he thinks the well-known friendship between Luca Pacioli and Leonardo da Vinci is crucial Luca Pacioli was an excellent mathematician

In his book Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita there is an illustration that describes ways of counting or expressing numbers with the fingers According to Kontić, if we follow Pacioli’s illustration, Mona Lisa’s hands seem to indicate the number 56 Kontić’s theory is still unproven but, even if we want to believe it, there’s no particular meaning behind the number 56 Why would a man of science like Leonardo, who used to leave nothing to chance, put a meaningless number at the centre of his painting? On this, art historian Claudio Strinati, an official at the Italian Culture Ministry, said: ""We all think the [Mona Lisa] is this constant source of mystery The truth is, when you set your mind to finding a secret, you can demonstrate whatever you want

"" Instead, Professor Martin Kemp blames Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, for all the theories and speculations that have arisen in the last few years The Louvre says that it has examined the painting with “every possible laboratory test” and has found no letters or numbers hidden within it It looks like the Mona Lisa mysteries were in its destiny from the very beginning As far as we know, its future may be even more enigmatic Because, as Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “No human investigation can be defined as true science if it does not go through mathematical proofs

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