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]

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.

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Rare Audio Clip of Frida Kahlo Discovered in Mexican Sound Library

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Even if they're not experts in art, many people are familiar with Frida Kahlo's most famous paintings. The Mexican artist's style, quotes, and artwork are still iconic 65 years after her death, but few people know what she sounded like. As CNN reports, the National Sound Library of Mexico recently announced the discovery of what could be the only surviving recording of her voice.

The clip comes from the 1955 pilot of the radio show El Bachiller. The episode profiles Diego Rivera, a muralist and Kahlo's on-again-off-again husband. In one section, Kahlo can be heard reciting a text entitled "Portrait of Diego" that poetically describes the appearance and temperament of her spouse.

Kahlo had already died when the episode aired, and the radio show notes that the voice being broadcast belongs to a painter "who no longer exists." The original recording of her voice likely dates back to 1954 or 1953 (she died in July 1954).

In a press release, the director of the National Sound Library of Mexico Pável Granados said that audio of Frida Kahlo is one of the most common requests they receive. The authenticity of the tape has yet to be confirmed, and authorities are currently investigating to see if the voice in the recording really belonged to the artist.

Surviving audio of Kahlo may be rare, but the painter left behind many artworks and writings that paint a rich picture of her life. Here are some facts about the icon.

[h/t CNN]

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