Abstract

The technique used by Leonardo da Vinci to paint flesh tints—the sfumato—has never been scientifically depicted until now. From 100,000,000 reflectance spectra recorded on Mona Lisa, a virtual removal of the varnish is first obtained. A unique umber pigment is then identified in the upper layer and an exceptional maximum of the color saturation is underlined, both characteristics of a glaze technique. The modeling calling upon the radiative transfer equation confirms this maximum of saturation, the identification of an umber in the upper layer, and moreover underlines a mixture of 1% vermilion and 99% lead white in the base layer. Finally, the modeling, using the auxiliary function method, explains the spectacular maximum of saturation by the multiple scattering.

© 2008 Optical Society of America

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