Scientists Think They Figured Out Mona Lisa’s Smile
It is a mystery that has vexed the art world for centuries: Is Mona Lisa’s famous smile happy? The answer is overwhelmingly “yes,” according to a new study. German researchers report that nearly everyone shown altered images of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous brunette perceived the original as happy. “We really were astonished,” neuroscientist Juergen Kornmeier said. The point of the analysis was to determine how people respond to visual clues such as facial expressions. Researchers chose to study reactions to the 16th-century masterpiece because of the “emotional ambiguity” of her expression. To some observers, they note, Mona Lisa’s slight smile appears to dissolve into a sneer the longer you stare at it. But overall, 97% of the people surveyed deemed her “happy.”
Just happy? Or is she a touch mischievous, or even flirtatious? If there was a word balloon in the picture, what would she be saying?