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]

Meet the Artist Who Has Been Sketching New York City Subway Stations for 40 Years

art2002/iStock via Getty Images
art2002/iStock via Getty Images

The aesthetic appeal of New York City's subway system is often hidden behind a layer of grime or simply ignored by commuters. Philip Ashforth Coppola has been admiring those finer points of public transit for more than 40 years.

The New Jersey-based artist began sketching and researching the subway’s interior in 1978, Atlas Obscura reports. His pen drawings are in black and white, but Coppola notes the exact colors and the historic significance behind each. The beaver plaques at the Astor Place station, for example, represents real estate mogul John Jacob Astor, who first made his fortune in the fur trade.

“I’ve spent a lot of years on it,” he says in the 2005 documentary One Track Mind (also the title of his 2018 book). “But I haven’t accomplished that much.” The former art student is selling himself short: Coppola has drawn at least 110 of the city’s 472 stations, resulting in 2000 sketches spanning 41 notebooks.

In an interview with WNYC, Coppola admitted that he wasn’t a train enthusiast as a child. “When I was a kid, I liked to draw pictures and tell stories or write them down,” he says. “That sort of ... filed into this new adventure.”

Coppola sees the drawings as a way to preserve the subway system's overlooked details. “The idea is to make a record of what we’ve got, before more of it is lost," he says.

Even irritable commuters realized the significance of his endeavors. “People were just thunderstruck when they saw [Coppola’s] artwork,” says Jeremy Workman, the documentary's director. “It reminded them of art they had seen themselves and maybe didn’t notice. We thought that was a powerful message: Reminding people of the beauty that’s right in front of their eyes.”

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

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