Sheffield, South Yorkshire – The researchers that examined Leonardo da Vinci’s popular painting claimed that they have solved the mystery behind the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.
A team of researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and Sunderland University have found the answer to the mystery through the study of an older painting. La Bella Principessa is a painting da Vinci did around late 15th century before he painted the Mona Lisa.
It appears that da Vinci tricks the viewers using a technique that involves playing with colors. The technique used is stumato, which was applied in the two paintings. The technique tricks our peripheral vision through the expertly blended colours.
Depending on the view point, the mouth of the subject will appear to change. The researchers explained that the mouth has a distinct downward slant when one views the painting directly. So, it was concluded that when one views the mouth indirectly, the smile starts to appear. The downward slant when viewed directly takes an upward slant. Whenever the vision is on any part except the mouth, the smile appears.
One amazing trivia the researchers have found about the Mona Lisa smile and the stumato technique is that other painters who tried to do the same weren’t successful. It was only da Vinci who did it expertly.
Alessandro Soranzo and Michelle Newberry, both researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, wrote and published a paper in the Vision Research journal. The two named the visual illusion of the La Bella and Mona Lisa smile as the ‘uncatchable smile’. This is so because the smile disappears whenever the viewer tries to catch it.
To validate their claims, the researchers conducted a test. It involved viewing of blurred versions of the paintings and viewing them from a distance. Participants said in agreement that the subjects are happier when viewed from a distance. The results led to the conclusion that the mouth causes the changes in expression.