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Modern Mysteries

Mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile solved

August 20, 2015 | Comment icon 14 comments



What is the secret behind the Mona Lisa's smile ? Image Credit: Leonardo da Vinci
Researchers have identified a subtle optical illusion responsible for the painting's enigmatic smile.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous painting of all time - it's subtle smile and captivating pose delighting generations of art lovers for the better part of 500 years.

Now however researchers may have finally solved one of the painting's most enduring mysteries by examining another portrait by the Renaissance genius - that of La Bella Principessa.

What they found was that da Vinci had employed a subtle optical illusion in his paintings by blending colors to exploit the observer's peripheral vision, a technique that could give the shape of the mouth a different appearance depending on which part of the painting the observer was focusing on.
In La Bella Principessa for example the mouth appears to slope downwards when viewed directly yet when observed indirectly a faint smile can be perceived.

Da Vinci is believed to have employed this same technique when he painted the Mona Lisa.

"As the smile disappears as soon as the viewer tries to 'catch it', we have named this visual illusion the 'uncatchable smile,'" the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Vision Research.

Source: Mail Online | Comments (14)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by MJNYC 7 years ago
Ive never understood what they mean by the Mona Lisa smile enigma! I think these art critics/historic "experts" are looking into this to much! Its just a painting of a slightly portly female with a small mouth! It bamboozles me how it has become such a modern phenomena! Humanity needs to give its self a shake! Father and Razer: I think you both skipped art appreciation class!!!!
Comment icon #6 Posted by eydood 7 years ago
I have to wonder if the illusion was just a happy accident on da Vinci's part
Comment icon #7 Posted by Father Merrin 7 years ago
Father and Razer: I think you both skipped art appreciation class!!!! Yes but there is appreciation for art and then there is just fanciful cryptic fanaticism!
Comment icon #8 Posted by Father Merrin 7 years ago
Its at the stage im expecting to see the Mona hanging up at a ufo convention
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
Yeah, I agree with you guys.. I also have no problem seeing her smile regardless of where I focus on the painting. There is no "illusion", at least not to me.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Erowin 7 years ago
It's funny, because the Mona Lisa only really became well-known and famous because it was stolen for a year or two. Before that, it wasn't that big a deal, and was just sitting on a wall surrounded by tons of other paintings.
Comment icon #11 Posted by vinylkid1234 7 years ago
No it is true, if you look at the photo (a small jpeg from a distance) she looks like she is smiling 100x100 pixels for instance, but if you click on the page and look at the picture closely you notice she is not smiling at all, she looks sad to me? The human brain and eyes play tricks and it is an illusion to me, she is sad as hell, I cant see a smile but did before I clicked on the link. All these modern artists with phd's and stuff are blind! If you call that a smile you must live a sad life.
Comment icon #12 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
The mystery is some "expert" many years ago said there was a smile, so all of the people that wanted to be in "the crowd" said "Yes, I see it!" A person can convince themselves of almost anything. Eventually, perception become reality whether it's right or wrong.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Goodnite 7 years ago
Just a ploy so the critics feel smarter than the masses.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Gecks 7 years ago
Nope, no matter how I look at it I see a smile. Im more interested in the mystery of the mona lisa eyebrows!


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