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Las Vegas: Da Vinci's genius explored at the Venetian

Special to the Los Angeles Times

The fictional Robert Langdon cracked the equally fictional "Da Vinci Code" by discovering clues hidden within the "Mona Lisa." But it’s a French scientist and art researcher, Pascal Cotte, who has uncovered the real secrets of one of the world’s most famous portraits. His amazing work is revealed in a walk through “Da Vinci - The Genius,” an exhibition featured at the Venetian resort in Las Vegas.

In a darkened gallery, panels reveal Cotte’s discoveries about the masterpiece, painted not on canvas but on a plank of poplar. Visitors can go face-to-face with a highly detailed replica of the masterpiece, observing a crack in the wood on the painting’s face and a butterfly splint, applied ages ago to the reverse side to prevent a bigger split.

The Louvre granted Cotte unprecedented access to the "Mona Lisa." He spent several hours with her in a laboratory at the art museum -- capturing digital images with his own creation: a 240,000,000-pixel camera that captures a whopping 4,000 pixels per square millimeter.

“We can analyze all the cracks. We can analyze inside the cracks,” Cotte said.

Da Vinci began working on the piece in 1503 and continued making revisions and touch-ups for the next 12 years. Cotte’s work uncovered that the artist applied more than 150 layers of paint to the "Mona Lisa."

The drawings and prototypes of many of da Vinci’s inventions are also displayed. His design for a helicopter hangs from the ceiling near his early vision of an automobile.

The 16th century plans for a bicycle -- part of the exhibit -- may not be Da Vinci’s work, Cotte said. The Parisian discovered that the person who made those sketches was right-handed. Da Vinci was left-handed.

“Da Vinci – The Genius” continues through Oct. 15. Admission is $25 for adults and $18 for children 12 and younger.

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