Revealing Mona Lisa’s Secrets Through Advanced Analytical Chemistry

ACS Webinars

Historical paintings are also complex chemical objects so museums turn to analytical chemistry to decipher the mysteries concealed within their micrometric paint layers. Recently, x ray and infrared microanalyses of the Mona Lisa’s ground layer revealed the presence of an unexpected, inorganic mineral compound. How was it formed and what does this tell us about Leonardo da Vinci’s painting techniques and color palette? 

Join Victor Gonzalez of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) as he details how the utilization of High-angular resolution synchrotron-based X-ray powder diffraction (SR-XRPD) revealed the unusual presence of plumbonacrite, a metastable lead carbonate, in a unique tiny fragment taken from the Mona Lisa. Register now to learn the how this result, coupled with the analysis of Leonardo’s manuscripts and the study of micro-fragments from his painting The Last Supper by high-lateral resolution SR-XRPD, suggests that the artist was modifying his oil binder with lead oxide, probably to thicken it and improve its drying properties.

This ACS Webinar is moderated by Panče Naumov of NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU and is co-produced with ACS Publications.

What You Will Learn

  • How an unexpected inorganic compound was detected via synchrotron probes in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa 
  • Why the chemistry at stake in the formation of this non-original material helps us make hypotheses on Leonardo da Vinci’s paint formulations 
  • How advanced synchrotron-based X-ray probes can give us new insights into the materials and recipes of the Old Masters

Co-Produced With


What an attendee said about this ACS Webinar!


Great insight into Analytical Chemistry & the arts; understanding the great painters & they were chemists even though they did not know it. Great webinar.


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Victor Gonzalez
Researcher, French National Center for Scientific Research

Panče Naumov
Professor of Chemistry, NYU Abu Dhabi and Global Network Professor of Chemistry, NYU

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