The great things about taking on an ambitious project like the Mona Lisa documentary is that you meet some really interesting people along the way.
Pascal Cotte of Lumiere technologies is one of the people who I really could not have done the Mona Lisa documentary without.
He shared with me the colour data he obtained from inside the Mona Lisa painting using his remarkable multi spectral scanner, which helped me recreate the colours of the Mona Lisa as faithfully as possible, as you might imagine the colours you see in the Mona Lisa today are a very long way from the colours Leonardo painted. Pascal was lucky enough to scan the Mona Lisa in the basement of the Louvre in the dead of night, can you imagine how exciting that would've been? In return I recreated one of the poses for his book with my good friend Jay Jessop.
Having created such a remarkable machine Pascal and the team at Lumiere technology have made some remarkable discoveries about other masterpieces too. His latest multispectral analysis is of the Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Lady With an Ermine' a portrait of Cecilia Gallerini which dates back to 1490 and you can read about his discoveries in this excellent new book 'Lumiere on The Lady with an Ermine' The analysis reveals many previous unknown secrets of the painting and even reveal Leonardo's Palm prints in the paintwork.
The portrait is titled 'Lady with an Ermine' and indeed Cecilia Gallerini was the 17 year old mistress of Ludvico Sforza, the Duke of Milan
Pascal made an interesting discovery about the animal she is holding, though it is called an Ermine (Mustela erminea) it has the features of a much larger member of the Mustelidae family - a Stone Martin (Martes foina)
Why? Well there are a few thoughts on this.
But I have my own.
Ludvico was a patron of Leonardo, and in addition to commissioning the Lady with an ermine he also commissioned Leonardo's 'Last Supper'
As well as being a great patron of the arts Ludovico Sfortza was also a tyrant and certainly not to be messed with.
You can see in Pascal's book that the Ermine did indeed start as a 'true to size' and scale Ermine but for some reason or another the Ermine was amended to look altogether more muscular, larger(characteristic of a Stone Martin) and something not to be messed with, a bit like the Duke.
It could be that Leonardo just decided to paint over the original Ermine because he felt like it, I however have my own theory.
The Duke commissioned Leonardo to paint a portrait of his new mistress with the all-important Ermine which has important allegorical significance, being an animal of purity and and peerless beauty.
This my friends, is the part that any fellow working photographer will know.
The Duke or some of his hangers on would've come along to check the progress of Leonardo's painting of his mistress, and I reckon they were more than little upset when I saw that the Ermine was well a little bit small and weedy looking, in fact just like an Ermine looks.
I think the order came down on from on high we want something a little more stern, purposeful looking a little more aggressive a - change it.
So Leonardo did just that, accentuating some of the key features of the Ermine with those of the Stone Martin.
I could be completely wrong but having been the victim of client interference more times than I care to mention it feels like this is what happened.
After all he did not want to risk losing his next commission from the Duke or perhaps even more....
I have to stress I really speak with no knowledge regarding this interference of the Duke but it's the sort of thing I have been on the receiving end of many a few times myself,
Client 'What's that?'
Me 'Exactly what you asked for, using the dress you supplied'
Client 'I don't like the colour of the dress'
Me 'It was signed off in the final pre production meeting, remember?'
Client 'reshoot it'
Even if you don't buy my theory do have a look at the book, settling down in front of the fire with this book is a fine way to while away a cold dark Winter's evening.