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Still Waters

Mona Lisa's smile decoded

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Still Waters

 The subject of centuries of scrutiny and debate, Mona Lisa's famous smile is routinely described as ambiguous. But is it really that hard to read?

Apparently not.

In an unusual trial, close to 100 per cent of people described her expression as unequivocally "happy", researchers revealed on Friday (March 10).

"We really were astonished," neuroscientist Juergen Kornmeier of the University of Freiburg in Germany, who co-authored the study, told AFP.

Kornmeier and a team used what is arguably the most famous artwork in the world in a study of factors that influence how humans judge visual cues such as facial expressions.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/mona-lisas-smile-decoded-science-says-shes-happy

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quiXilver

Happy is too giddy a term for me to accept with her...

 

I think her expression is far deeper and more engaging than the unsupportable notion of happy.

 

i sense that she resides in contentment.  Far more stable than happiness... a state not requiring external conditions to be manifest in any particular manner to maintain the state.

 

Contentment abides where happiness rises and falls... contenment is a tree where happiness is a breeze.

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oldrover

Lets be honest, the technique is exquisite and personally I love the painting, but she is a bit of a pudding face.  I doubt it was a great portrait of the sitter it's highly stylised as all of his later work was. It's the same basic idea as John the Baptist, St Anne, the Virgin Mary, neat or on the rocks. Old Leo was a highly overrated artist outside of his own particular vision. Which I happen to be fond of, but I wouldn't class him in the top 10 in hindsight. And his earlier works, before he set his style, are OK to very, very good, but nothing special. 

I think the debate about her smile is a bit of an affectation to be honest. 

Edited by oldrover
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Parsec

To me it's clear it's neither happiness nor sadness. It's colitis.

 

A little less silly, I've always thought of it as a pan am smile, a smile put up just for politeness. 

 

On 10/3/2017 at 8:39 PM, oldrover said:

[...] I think the debate about her smile is a bit of an affectation to be honest. 

I agree with you. 

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Maureen_jacobs

It's that she knows something which we do not, almost a smug look.

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kartikg

pardon my ignorance, can someone please tell me what is enigmatic about the painting, I ve watched a few short video of it but I am not finding anything exciting about it or the smile. Has anyone conducted any experiment where the subjects were not aware of the painting and shown and recorded their opinion?

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quiXilver

The painting is full of sacred geometry and symbolic information. 

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Silent Trinity

Well I live with my wife and standing face to face with her I can never tell what her mood is most of the time, the eternal problem of men trying to understand women.....so to try and decipher an expression from an old enigmatic painting will be a difficult task I fear.... lol

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Frank Merton
3 minutes ago, Silent Trinity said:

Well I live with my wife and standing face to face with her I can never tell what her mood is most of the time, the eternal problem of men trying to understand women.....so to try and decipher an expression from an old enigmatic painting will be a difficult task I fear.... lol

I suspect men could learn a lesson from that and not be so transparent.

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Susanc241

What we see is what was painted and not necessarily the expression on the face of the sitter, i.e. the artists interpretation of what he saw, or the effect he wanted to create. Over analysing artwork, however good or bad does nothing for anybody, IMO. You either like it or you don't.

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Yamato

The right side of her face (viewers' perspective) looks a bit happier than the left side.  Overall she looks happy.  The smile must be forced to an extent, posing for a portrait.    It's pretty common to see even smiling people with lips that point downwards at the ends in a "sad" direction.  It's common to see people who don't look like they're happy with happy-curved lips (Winston Churchill above for example).   Mona's smile is obvious though and a smile denotes happiness, so I'm not exactly astonished at the results.  Content would be a more accurate description but if the choices are happy or sad, then happy.

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skliss

If smug or secretive were on the list I would have chosen one of those over "happy".

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paperdyer

Does it really matter whether she was happy or sad?  How do we know DaVInci didn't take some "liberties" with his interpretation of her face or expression?  Don't we have anything better to do than to waste time on a subject that doesn't matter one way or the other?

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Dyna

She is looking seductive but trying not to for the paining. He feelings however are engaged toward the artists.

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oldrover
6 hours ago, paperdyer said:

Does it really matter whether she was happy or sad?  How do we know DaVInci didn't take some "liberties" with his interpretation of her face or expression?  Don't we have anything better to do than to waste time on a subject that doesn't matter one way or the other?

When Leonardo left for France toward the end of his life he took the painting with him. The man who commissioned it never actually got it by the way. Old Leo was a bit dodgy when it came to coming through on his orders. So it's likely he was fiddling away with it for a period of years after he last saw the sitter's face. 

The painting is more a reflection of his artistic vision than a portrait, as I say it's very similar to the rest of his late work. 

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