Mystery of the Mona Lisa’s smile solved


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.