Was Mona Lisa Faking Her Smile?

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Art is supposed to be a highly subjective experience, contradicting science's focus on objective conclusions. But a team of neuroscientists believe they've arrived at a definitive interpretation about Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa. According to their research, the subject in the painting is putting on a forced smile.

In a paper published in the journal Cortex, researchers from the U.S. and Europe set out to examine the smirk of the painting's subject, believed to be a woman named Lisa Gherardini, whose husband commissioned the painting as a gift. First, they created chimeric images of the Mona Lisa's expression by bisecting her face and mirror-imaging the left or right sides to create full smiles. Then, they asked 42 study participants to describe the images from a list of six different emotions. Thirty-nine said the left side was expressing happiness. No one in the group labeled the right side as appearing happy. Most said it was neutral, while five said it was actually displaying disgust.

Conclusion? The happiness of the smile appeared only on the left, and was therefore asymmetrical and "non-genuine."

Coupled with their observation that the face of the Mona Lisa appears expressionless around the cheeks and eyes, the researchers surmised that the woman in the painting was appearing to be insincere. They argue that Leonardo likely took his model's blank expression and added a slight smirk on the left side: perhaps Gherardini simply couldn't maintain a pleased expression while sitting for the duration of the work. They also speculate that Leonardo may have known an asymmetrical smile was thought to be non-genuine and purposely depicted it to draw more reactions out of the painting's viewers.

It's also possible that none of these theories is correct. Like any great work of art, its meaning could remain enigmatic for another five centuries at least.

[h/t Geek.com]

This Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure Comes Complete with Removable Ears

Today Is Art Day, Amazon
Today Is Art Day, Amazon

Historians still don’t know how Vincent van Gogh lost his left ear, or for that matter, how much of it was actually lopped off. However, as Bored Panda reports, Today Is Art Day decided to take historic liberties in the name of nerdy fun and created a mini van Gogh action figure, complete with two completely detachable ears.

Today Is Art Day developed a prototype of the 5-inch PVC figurine back in 2017, and to bring it to the art-loving masses, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. Backers who contributed $28 Canadian dollars (around $21 USD) scored their own van Gogh action figure.

A van Gogh action figure next to a miniature 'Starry Night' painting
Today Is Art Day, Amazon

A boxed Vincent van Gogh action figure
Today Is Art Day, Amazon

Fans who missed out on the Kickstarter the first time around can buy one on Amazon now for $24. He even comes in a box decorated with miniature, cut-out replicas of his Sunflowers (1888) and The Starry Night (1889).

Today Is Art Day has since branched out to produce a whole host of other figurines based on famous icons, from other artists like Frida Kahlo and Gustav Klimt to scientific luminaries like Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein.

[h/t Bored Panda]

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Show Off Your Love of Art With a Frida Kahlo Action Figure

Frida Kahlo Action Figure
Frida Kahlo Action Figure
Today is Art Day

If you're in the market for an action figure based on a real person, you've got plenty to choose from: Everyone from Snoop Dogg to the Pope is getting their own figurine these days. Now, Frida Kahlo has joined the ranks of icons who have become immortalized in plastic.

In 2017, Canadian art website Today Is Art Day (known for its Vincent van Gogh action figure) started a Kickstarter to give Kahlo the action figure treatment. The toy features the artist with a monkey pal on her shoulder, as well as a detachable heart and the faint smell of roses. The packaging has fun facts about the artist, along with some miniature artwork that can be cut out and affixed to a miniature easel.

“Not that I don’t like the great books and reproductions of artworks but, I think it’s more engaging to have a Frida Kahlo action figure on your desk rather than an art history book on your shelf," ‘Today Is Art Day’ founder David Beaulieu told Lost at E Minor during the Kickstarter campaign.

The Frida action figure is available on Amazon for $30.

Frida Kahlo Action Figure

Frida Kahlo Action Figure

[h/t Lost at E Minor]

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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