Ron is a friend and a client of mine. He is also a graphic designer and an artist (not an art historian as some news reports are saying). His findings are compelling and quite intriguing. Here’s the press release we recently issued about them. For more information, a number of photos and even his YouTube video, visit http://www.pitchengine.com/monalisadiscoveries/rochester-ny-artist-makes-discoveries-regarding-the–mona-lisa-and-other-renaissance-art. Also visit Ron’s Web site, www.thehiddenhorsehead.com.
Ron Piccirillo, a Rochester, NY-based graphic designer and painter, has made new discoveries regarding the Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, the Mona Lisa, including her identity as well as finding new hidden images in the painting. In addition, Piccirillo has identified new hidden subjects in other Renaissance art, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. He has also identified a passage in Leonardo’s notebooks that provides a key to viewing these works of art.
“After studying images of the Mona Lisa, I discovered several hidden subjects in the painting. Excited and curious about what I saw, I began to pore over Leonardo’s paintings, his writings and the work of other Renaissance artists to look for other hidden subjects,” said Piccirillo.
“I then came upon several specific passages in Leonardo’s notebooks. I was dumbfounded to see that Leonardo’s own words validated what I saw,” continues Piccirillo. “One passage speaks directly to the Mona Lisa and shows that this may not be a painting of a particular person but of a human trait: Envy.”
“Another passage articulates how to properly view his and other Renaissance paintings, thus helping to uncover hidden images no one has seen before,” he adds. “Yet another passage names specific animals that can be found in the Mona Lisa. It is beyond coincidence to have identified these hidden images after finding references to them in Leonardo’s own writings.”
“This is really about viewing perspective. Imagine standing in front of an oval line drawing. It is obviously an oval, but if you view it from the left or right, at a large enough angle, the oval turns into a circle,” Piccirillo continued. “This is the key to understanding how Leonardo and many other Renaissance artists hid subjects in their artwork. If you know to look for them, they are there.”
“Some might argue that if you look at a cloud long enough, for example, you can see all kinds of objects,” he said. “But in the Mona Lisa and other instances, there are too many coincidences to be ignored.”
How to View Renaissance Art
“In Leonardo’s notebooks, he talked about how you will not understand the picture well if you do not look at the painting from the correct angle,” said Piccirillo. The specific passage on how to view Renaissance art reads:
“Supposing a b to be the picture and d to be the light, I say that if you place yourself between c and e you will not understand the picture well and particularly if it is done in oils, or still more if it is varnished, because it will be lustrous and somewhat of the nature of a mirror. And for this reason the nearer you go towards the point c, the less you will see, because the rays of light falling from the window on the picture are reflected to that point. But if you place yourself between e and d you will get a good view of it, and the more so as you approach the point d, because that spot is least exposed to these reflected rays of light.” 
“So, observing these Renaissance paintings from what I call the ‘d-point’ is essential,” added Piccirillo. “In doing so, one can identify what Leonardo and his contemporaries intended to be there – optical illusions that reveal their hidden subjects. Perhaps through this viewing technique we can learn more about these artists and what they were trying to say through their art. The majority of my findings are based on viewing from this perspective.”
Mona Lisa’s Identity
Up until now, the belief has been that Leonardo never mentioned Mona Lisa in any of his writings. Piccirillo believes the Mona Lisa to represent Envy. The specific passage in Leonardo’s notebooks that Piccirillo found that describes the Mona Lisa reads:
“Envy must be represented with a contemptuous motion of the hand towards heaven, because if she could she would use her strength against God; make her with her face covered by a mask of fair seeming; show her as wounded in the eye by a palm branch and by an olive-branch, and wounded in the ear by laurel and myrtle, to signify that victory and truth are odious to her. Many thunderbolts should proceed from her to signify her evil speaking. Let her be lean and haggard because she is in perpetual torment. Make her heart gnawed by a swelling serpent, and make her with a quiver with tongues serving as arrows, because she often offends with it. Give her a leopard’s skin, because this creature kills the lion out of envy and by deceit. Give her too a vase in her hand full of flowers and scorpions and toads and other venomous creatures; make her ride upon death, because Envy, never dying, never tires of ruling. Make her bridle, and load her with divers kinds of arms because all her weapons are deadly.” 
Piccirillo breaks down the passage here: (He has broken down the passage line by line in document that can be found on his Web site.)
Leonardo wrote: “Envy must be represented with a contemptuous motion of the hand towards heaven, because if she could she would use her strength against God.”
Piccirillo comments: “The bending of her right wrist always seemed awkward to me. To me it would be more natural to bend at the knuckles. It seems as if she is raising her hand towards something – most likely, God. Interestingly, if one observes the painting at the ‘d point,’ her hand does indeed seem to break at the knuckles instead of the wrist.”
Leonardo wrote: “Make her heart gnawed by a swelling serpent.”
Piccirillo comments: “This is my favorite sentence in the passage because it translates so clearly in the painting. From the ‘d point,’ one can clearly see the head of a reptile – perhaps a serpent, an alligator or a crocodile – behind her. Its open mouth lines up perfectly with Mona Lisa’s heart, which can be seen subtly by following the shape of the highlights in the center of her chest.”
“Although the Mona Lisa could possibly be an actual person, in my mind, Leonardo clearly intended to personify the trait of Envy. Perhaps he meant to only paint Envy or perhaps he intended on painting a person and painting the elements that are in accord with his definition of Envy,” added Piccirillo. “This is certainly something for conversation.”
Mona Lisa’s Smile
“Art historians, painters and lay people alike all refer to her ‘enigmatic smile,’ really a mystery to be solved,” said Piccirillo. “By applying the viewing technique as described by Leonardo himself – viewing her from the ‘d-point’ – allows her to reveal her intended smile. From this perspective, she also looks thinner, younger and more womanly.”
Mona Lisa Landscape
Before discovering what he believes to be the Mona Lisa’s identity (Envy), Piccirillo had discovered a mule head, lion head, ape head and buffalo head in the painting, viewing them from the normal frontal view, which prompted him to research his findings and led him to Leonardo’s notebooks.
Interestingly, all of these are referenced in the following passage from Leonardo’s notebooks:
“Man. The description of man, which includes that of such creatures as are of almost the same species, as Apes, Monkeys and the like, which are many.
The Lion and its kindred, as Panthers. Wildcats, Tigers, Leopards, Wolfs, Lynxes, Spanish cats, common cats and the like.
The Horse and its kindred, as Mule, Ass and the like, with incisor teeth above and below.
The Bull and its allies with horns and without upper incisors as the Buffalo, Stag Fallow Deer, Wild Goat, Swine, Goat, wild Goats, Muskdeers, Chamois, Giraffe.”
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel
Piccirillo also makes the following unique observations and discoveries in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, identifying hidden monsters, figures and creatures in the painting from the “d point,” of which there are many because there are so many compositions and panels on the ceiling.
“On the ceiling of the chapel, there are 12 main figures seated around the perimeter of the painting. Each figure has its own ‘d-point,’ which is located from the closest wall looking inward towards the ceiling. Each profile is really an illusion. From the correct perspective, one can see a head profile looking away from the viewer and upon the panels located in the center of the ceiling. Each profile is a different character or creature. Some are more difficult to see than others.
“The easiest illusion to see takes place in The Cumean Sibyl panel overlooking the God creates Eve panel. From the ‘d point,’ the profile appears to be a monster of some sort with a bandaged up nose, smirking as a villain might. Each pair of Putti (the smaller stone characters that seem to be holding up the structure panels) seems to transform into hands from the ‘d point’s’ illusion. So it looks altogether as if the profiles are leaning over a ledge and looking ‘down’ into the scenes painted along the center of the ceiling.
“Other profiles around the perimeter include two knights, an old bearded man, a horse head, a hooded old man, and other characters. There also seems to be an elephant head in the panel entitled The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden.
“I can’t say why Michelangelo did this, but it is clear that there are hidden subjects throughout the ceiling.”
Revealing the Hidden Subjects in Renaissance Art:
Hidden subjects in Renaissance paintings have been noted throughout time. Just recently, art restorers discovered a figure of a devil hidden in the clouds of one of the most famous frescos by Giotto in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi. “There is no disputing the fact that Renaissance artists and artists throughout time have hidden objects, people and animals in their paintings,” concluded Piccirillo.
Piccirillo’s findings are new, though. In addition to what’s been outlined, Piccirillo has made many other discoveries of horse heads in the Mona Lisa, in Leonardo’s other paintings and in the work of Michelangelo and Raphael (horses were a known fascination of Leonardo’s) – again using the technique of looking at the paintings from the “d-point.” Piccirillo has also discovered that if you turn an image of the Mona Lisa upside down, the painting looks like a question mark, something he noticed early on that propelled his initial search to learn more about Leonardo’s work.
About Ron Piccirillo:
Piccirillo lives in Rochester, NY and has worked as a graphic designer for nearly the last 20 years. He studied graphic design at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He has dedicated the last year of his life to painting, honing his craft and studying techniques of the masters associated with the periods in art about which he is most interested. These masters include Leonardo, Michelangelo, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Monet. For more information on him and his findings, visit www.thehiddenhorsehead.com.
 The Da Vinci Notebooks, edited by Emma Dickens, Arcade Publishing New York, 2005/2011, page 77
 The Da Vinci Notebooks, edited by Emma Dickens, Arcade Publishing New York, 2005/2011, page 99
 The Da Vinci Notebooks, edited by Emma Dickens, Arcade Publishing New York, 2005/2011, page 131