Art World Scientists Discover the Legendary Secret Behind the ‘Mona Lisa’ Smile (artnet news)

by Amah-Rose Abrams, Friday, August 21, 2015 original article here.

Leonardo da Vinci, "Mona Lisa" (1503–1517)

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–1517) Photo: Wikipedia Commons

One of the greatest mysteries in art history has been solved: British academics say they have discovered the secret behind the smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa by studying a recently discovered portrait by the Renaissance master, La Bella Principessa.

By comparing the techniques employed in the two works, scientists from Sheffield Hallam University claim to have proved that the enigmatic “now you see it, now you don”t” effect of the Mona Lisa smile was intentional on the part of da Vinci. They have named it “the uncatchable smile.”

The epiphany came by studying La Bella Principessa. The earlier painting, which portraits the young illegitimate daughter of a Milanese Duke, has the same effect as the Mona Lisa: from some angles the young lady seems to be smiling, from others, the smile appears to have vanished.

Leonardo da Vinci , <i>La Bella Principessa</i> (c. 1496)<br /> Photo: via <em>Art Daily</em>

Leonardo da Vinci , La Bella Principessa (c. 1496) Photo: via Art Daily

La Bella Principessa‘s mouth appears to change slant depending on both the viewing distance and the level of blur applied to a digital version of the portrait,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal, Vision Research, according to the Telegraph. “Through a series of psychophysics experiments, it was found that a perceived change in the slant of La Bella Principessa‘s mouth influences her expression of contentment.”

Volunteers were asked to look at the painting from a variety of angles and distances. The conclusion was that, when focusing on the eyes of the painting, viewing from a distance, or when digitally blurred, a delicate smile could be seen. When viewed close up, or focusing on the mouth, however, the smile disappears.

The works were observed from different angles <br> Photo: via the <i> Telegraph</i>

The works were observed from different angles Photo: via the Telegraph

The effect, evident in both paintings, was achieved by using the sfumato (which means “soft” or “pale” in Italian) technique, which uses color and shading to create an optical illusion around the mouths.

“The results from the experiments support the hypothesis that there is a gaze-dependent illusory effect in the portrait of La Bella Principessa,” said Alessandro Soranzo of Sheffield Hallam’s psychology department. “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.'”

Until recently, La Bella Principessa was thought to be the work of a 19th century German painter, until it was discovered to be the portrait of 13-year-old Bianca Sforza, the illegitimate daughter of Ludovico Sforza, commissioned on the eve of her marriage in 1496.

6 Amazing Things We Learned From the World’s Most Famous Artworks (artnet news)

Christie Chu, Friday, July 17, 2015 original article here.

Leonardo da Vinci, "Mona Lisa" (1503–1517)

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–1517). Photo: via Wikipedia Commons.

1. The artist’s mystique is as valuable as his technique.
Technique and style count, but mystique is the third crucial component. The most famous artworks of all time all had a bit of intrigue in them. Was the Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci in drag? Was she pregnant? Was she Leonardo’s mother and a Chinese slave? We may never know.

Johannes Vermeer, "Girl With A Pearl Earring" (1665)

Johannes Vermeer, Girl With A Pearl Earring (1665). Photo: via Wikipedia Commons.

2. The best artists are the slow burning ones to popularity.
Johannes Vermeer, the painter of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and master of light, was vastly underappreciated in his lifetime. It was only after art critic Thophile Thore-Burger published a catalogue on the artist two centuries after his death that his work gained widespread recognition. Having so few artworks in circulation (34), Vermeer is one of the most sought-after masters in the world.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887)Photo via: Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887). Photo: via Wikipedia.

3. As an artist, you will probably be more appreciated once you are dead or in your 80s.
Vincent van Gogh was considered a success only after his death. Twenty years after he passed, there were major retrospectives in Paris, Amsterdam, and important group exhibitions in Cologne, New York, and Berlin. For most of his tragic life, Van Gogh suffererd from a wide array of diseases, both mental and physical. According to artnet’s Price Database, the most expensive work of his at auction reached $82. 5 million in 1990—$30 million above its high estimate.

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907). Photo: Wikipedia.

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907). Photo: via Wikipedia.

4.  The most revolutionary works of art are those often dismissed at first.
Pablo Picasso‘s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, arguably the most famous painting by the Spanish artist, was deemed immoral when it was first shown to the artist’s close group of friends. It was painted in 1907 but was only first exhibited in 1916.  It was later sold to Jacques Doucet in 1924 for 25,000 francs, a very low price for a Picasso work at the time. It currently hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This May, the artist’s Les Femme d’Algers (Version “O”) (1955) fetched a record $179.4 million.

Grant Wood, American Gothic, (1930).

Grant Wood, American Gothic, (1930).

5. The world’s most famous art works are by white male artists (no surprise).
The Birth of Venus, Mona Lisa, The Creation of Adam, Las Meninas, Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Third of May, Olympia, Whistler’s Mother, The Basket of Apples, Water Lilies, Starry Night, The Kiss, A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte, American Gothic, The Son of Man, and Autumn Rhythm were all painted by white men.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums, Rome. Photo: Titimaster, via Wikimedia Commons.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums, Rome. Photo: Titimaster, via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Artists nowadays don’t have the kind of discipline they used to have centuries ago.
Let’s get real, would someone devote four years of their life painting the ceiling of a chapel like Michelangelo did in the early 16th century? Probably not. That’s why Renaissance painters are called “masters.”

Supposedly Hidden from Hitler for Its Supernatural Powers, da Vinci Goes on Rare Public View (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on November 12, 2014 original article here.

The believed 1512 red chalk self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci that's now on public view at the Biblioteca Reale in Turin (via Wikimedia)

The believed 1512 red chalk self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci that’s now on public view at the Biblioteca Reale in Turin (via Wikimedia)


Gradually disappearing beneath a mottle of foxing and fading, a 1512 red chalk drawing believed to be a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci is on rare public view in Italy. Kept in a vault at Turin’s Biblioteca Reale (Royal Library), it’s been hidden for much of the past century — including once secretly taken to Rome during World War II. The strangest version of that journey holds this wasn’t just to keep it safe from art looting, but to guard the drawing’s supposed powers from the Führer.

Last month, just before the Leonardo and the King’s Treasures exhibition opened, Dany Mitzman at the BBC wrote there’s “a myth in Turin that the gaze of Leonardo da Vinci in this self-portrait is so intense that those who observe it are imbued with great strength” and “heaven forbid it should ever fall into Hitler’s hands and give him more power.”

It’s true that it was the sole work spirited away to Rome from the Biblioteca Reale, but that could very well have been its historic power that got it such protection. After all, the long arms of Hitler were scooping up masterpieces around Europe for the proposed Führermuseum, and da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” would fall into Nazi hands.

Yet it’s a good enough story to give the mysticism some internet legs in the past days as the exhibition opens and small groups are allowed into the drawing’s climate-controlled space. Some speculate it may not be da Vinci at all, but the 60-something man with a displeased frown settled amidst flowing hair and beard has done much to define our image of the Renaissance master. The work has only been displayed three times over the past hundred years, and for the Turin exhibition is joined by 80 objects including da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds and red chalk portrait of a young woman (both recently on loan from Turin to the Morgan Library for their Leonardo da Vinci: Treasures from the Biblioteca Reale, Turin).

Magical or no, that weathered stare of the portrait is deteriorating. Since the 1990s it’s mostly been stabilized, and a paper published in the Applied Physics Letters journal this June reported that scientists had developed a new way to old manuscript gauge degradation through its study. But now is an uncommon opportunity to descend to its vault to meet those storied eyes.

The self-portrait is on view in Leonardo and the King’s Treasures at the Biblioteca Reale (Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy) through January 15. 

Many interpretations, one master – Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is an iconic image and many artists have been inspired by this work of art. Ahead of time, if I accidentally credited the wrong person or the original artist did not receive credit and a link, please contact me and I will remedy this situation immediately. Special thanks to all the websites that have posted these images. Here are some of the less classic:

above: Last Supper Collage, 2013 by Akira Hashiguchi


The Last Supper by Anthony Falbo:


The Doctor Who Penultimate Last Supper by Ray Freisen aka RaiseGrate:

The Last Supper, Just Before Dinner by Mike Holzer:

The Last Supper of Sin by Atomikboy available at

The Last Supper by Giampaolo Ghisetti available at

The Last Supper by Dan Perez available at

The Last Supper by Thomas Dodd available at

My Rendition of The Last Supper by Tonya Nicole available at

The Last Round by Juan Schaar available at

The Last Time I Eat At Your House by Sam Dantone available at

United Colors of Religion by Ronald Wigman available at

The Last Supper by Dolladay available at

The Last Supper (Pandas) by Darren Stein available at

The Last Dinner (Sock Monkeys) by Randy Burns available at

He-Man Villains Epic Last Supper by Gumley available at


Star Trek Reboot Last Supper by Capt. Mac available at

The Last Supper (Pokemon Version) by Kabocha Tarute:

Dr. Who Action Figures Last Supper by Big Bang Boutique on etsy:

A Star Trek Last Supper  (artist unknown):

Zombies Last Supper by grim86 on deviantART

The Nighthawks Last Supper (an homage to Edward Hopper) by brandtk deviantArt:


Disney Princess Last Supper by Marytott deviantArt:

Game of Thrones Last Supper by Sheila Rooswitha Putri:

The Last Supper At Chuck E. Cheese by haxman999 deviantArt:

The Last Supper (If It Took Place Today) by algarmen deviantArt:

The LOST Last Supper by Ryan Nore deviantArt:


The Avengers Last Supper by swankkat deviantArt:

The Last Supper by morganpenn deviantArt:

Cubism Last Supper by eddietheyeti deviantArt:

The Lesbian Last Supper

This commissioned piece was created by Bronwyn Lundberg and features Jane Lynch,  Linda Perry, “Shane McCutcheon” as Judas, Sandra Bernhard, Rachel Maddow, Portia de Rossi, Ellen Degeneres, Wanda Sykes, KD Lang, Lily Tomlin, Heather Matarazzo, Melissa Etheridge, and Rosie O’Donnell. You can purchase prints here.


Another Zombie Last Supper, this one by by Erik Arreaga and Enrique Robled:

A Paint by Numbers version of the Last Supper ( Vermont Art Zine):

The Last Supper by artist Viktorija Bulava (1973):

Last Supper for dinner anyone?