Mona Lisa's Expressionistic Smile
"Although it remains a question whether the illusion was intended, given Leonardo’s mastery of the technique and its subsequent use in the Mona Lisa, it is quite conceivable that the ambiguity of the effect was intentional"
Have Sunderland University experts cracked the mystery of Mona Lisa’s smile?
"Professors claim an earlier portrait by Leonardo da Vinci showed the subject with a similar enigmatic expression as Mona Lisa’s.
Working alongside members of Sheffield Hallam University, the art experts studied a lesser-known painting by the Renaissance master which shows evidence of the artistic skill that would later give his most famous portrait her mysterious allure.
The study reveals the subject of La Bella Principessa, painted by da Vinci before the Mona Lisa in the late 15th century, also has an “uncatchable” smile, in which the shape of her mouth appears to change according to view point.
Alessandro Soranzo, from Sheffield Hallam’s department of psychology, said:
“The results from the experiments support the hypothesis that there is a gaze-dependent illusory effect in the portrait of La Bella Principessa.“Although it remains a question whether the illusion was intended, given Leonardo’s mastery of the technique and its subsequent use in the Mona Lisa, it is quite conceivable that the ambiguity of the effect was intentional, based on explicit artistic skill and used in line with Leonardo’s maxim that portraits should reflect some ‘inner turmoil of the mind’.”
"On a basic level I think The Mona Lisa is encompassing a new medium. With his painting techniques he was able to trick our eyes into seeing things that we didn’t know were there. That’s why it looks like she’s following you with her eyes and changing her expressions – it’s in the shading and how our eyes are looking at it.
Why her expression seems to change and is perceived differently:
Simply it’s Da Vinci’s Sfumato technique. Since there are no hard or highly contrasting lines in the painting - at least in the face. It causes the viewer to focus on and notice different expressions. This can change from the orientation the painting is viewed from, the distance away from it, where you’re looking, and how wide your focus is.
After looking at this painting in almost every conceivable fashion I say that her expression is - An “I know something you don’t know” smile that can actually change at the will of the viewer. It can reflect your mood or preconceived notion of what you were told her expression is.
OR if you know that it’s variable you can actually tell your eyes what to see. This might sound strange but it’s akin to ink blot testing but with blurry pictures. The facial expression also changes as you focus and dilate your eyes. If you’re good you can actually get her to wink at you. (try squinting) IT also demonstrates how your own mind can change the images it sees in the mind.. If you stare at something long enough without blinking you can blend a picture on a wall –into the wall. But it takes practice.
If you look at the Mona Lisa upside down the effect becomes more apparent - it’s up to you to decide on her expression. This is one of the biggest reasons for Mona’s popularity - everyone has an opinion as to what her expression is and they’re all, surprisingly, correct!
She appears to follow and stare at you for the same reasons. Your eyes are focusing on her in a very specific way that Da Vinci knew about and could manipulate. He painted her by looking in a mirror and just like looking in a mirror. It’s almost impossible to look at one and not see yourself looking back! The fuzziness around the eyes and mastery of perception makes the eyes appear to stay looking at you." -