The secret behind the Mona Lisa smile

The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous portrait in the world, and, considered by many to be Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece. We know a little about her already, and she is certainly one of the world’s great tourist attractions. The most famous part of the Mona Lisa is, as you can probably guess, her smile. This is the smile that has gone down in history for being strange and unusual, and one of the most striking ever.

There have been rumors abound concerning the Mona Lisa smile, and many have come up with theories as to why the smile is the way it is. But, actually, there is a science behind it; Leonardo Da Vinci, genius that he was stood astride art and science, and regularly combined the two. And Da Vinci applied his love of science to his magnum opus, to give us the most intriguing and fascinating of smiles. Let’s look a little closer at the science behind the Mona Lisa smile.

What’s in a smile?

If you’ve never seen the Mona Lisa smile, make sure you get online and find a great picture of it now. The smile is, without a doubt, one of the most mesmerizing we’ve seen, and that’s because of the way it is painted. When looking at the Mona Lisa, it feels like she reacts to our gaze, with a coy, knowing smile hinting at some deeper thought beneath the surface. Even when you look away, the smile lingers long in the mind and affects us on an emotional level. It’s the perfect coupling of motion and emotion, painted masterfully by Da Vinci.

How it works

The best way of describing the Mona Lisa smile, and its impact, is that it’s an optical illusion. Da Vinci, as we know, was a huge follower of science, and he applied this to the painting. Spending years studying and dissecting human faces, Da Vinci strove to find the perfect human face for his portrait. He spent time studying how the human eye perceives and processes things, as well as how the human mouth forms a smile. In this way, he created an optical illusion, and could be viewed as the earliest proponent of augmented reality!

The painting

When painting something as iconic as the Mona Lisa, one doesn’t simply sit down at the canvas and begin painting. Not even Da Vinci would pull that off. Instead, he planned things down to every last meticulous detail. When he first got the wooden panel for the painting, he chose to paint it with a coat of lead white, knowing this would reflect light much better and would affect the human gaze. This action really impacts on how we see the painting, as well as revealing the subtleties in the Mona Lisa’s face and smile. When rays of light catch it, the painting comes alive, and this was always Da Vinci’s plan all along.

It’s really amazing that the way in which we interpret the painting, and the iconic smile, was actually completely planned by the artist. Most people would probably feel this kind of things was a happy accident, but, with someone like Da Vinci, you can rest assured it was completely deliberate. There are so many wonderful stories surrounding the Mona Lisa, and you can guarantee that Leonardo Da Vinci’s aim was to get tongues wagging. This beautiful and iconic painting is one of the greatest the world will ever see.


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