Mona Lisa smile created using 'trick'
Date: 20 Mar 2010 | | Views: 3673
The Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile was created by a special painting technique which tricks the eye into thinking the expression is changing, a study has claimed.
Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci
Austrian neurologists say analysis of the masterpiece shows her face appears to shift depending where a person focuses their gaze.
If her eyes are stared at, it appears she has a subtle smile on her lips. But if the onlooker shifts their gaze to her mouth, then the smile disappears.
Professor Florian Hutzler, a psychology expert at the Centre for Neurocognitive Research in Salzburg, said Leonardo da Vinci had used clever techniques to trick the viewer.
When seen directly, soft layers of shading around the mouth make the expression appear neutral. But when viewed in peripheral vision, the same brush strokes merge and give the impression of a subtle smile.
"In Mona Lisa's mouth, there is a smile hidden," he said. "When you look directly on the mouth, you see the fine details, the smile disappears and there is only a neutral expression.
"Mona Lisa changes her expression depending on where you look at her face."
According to the new study published in the respected journal Psychological Science, Leonardo was able to accomplish the illusion using the "sfumato" technique in which layers of paint are added on top of each another to create subtle changes in shading.
Professor Stephen Porter, a psychology expert at the University of British Columbia, said the study had implications for how people process facial expressions beyond the Mona Lisa.
He said: "The most significant finding of this elegant, brilliant study was that people pick up on, and are influenced by, subtle information from another person's face at a subliminal level.
"It shows that we quickly analyse faces holistically but are not aware of this process. Our assessments of trustworthiness and attractiveness are affected in powerful ways by very subtle factors."