Monday, February 22, 2010

Art News: Art Meets Science

Now, this is fascinating and interestingly, the article by the scientist herself is quite entertaining!

Is Mona's Smile just an optical illusion?


Harvard Neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone on Mona Lisa:

A side interest in the lab is to use what we know about vision to understand some of the discoveries artists have made about how we see. The separate processing of color and form information has a parallel in artists' idea that color and luminance play very different roles in art (Livingstone, Vision and Art, Abrams Press, 2002). The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision (Science, 290, 1299)  Harvard Medical School Neurobiology Department

These three images show her face filtered to show selectively lowest (left) low (middle) and high (right) spatial frequencies.




Painting Perception
The Harvard Crimson




Oh, and for less scientific Mona Lisa entertainment visit Mona Lisa Mania

8 comments:

  1. I will need to go see Mona and check this theory for myself

    is it OK that I have never been a fan of the Mona Lisa? I've always thought she wasn't all that ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dianne: WP saw Mona Lisa up-close and personal after waiting in line for two hours and he said it wasn't worth it - it's tiny and dark and...well..."not all that". :-D

    Me, I love her. And de Vinci was obviously beyond brilliant to know so much about how the eye perceives when science hadn't yet had a clue.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, the wonderful optical illusion.
    I've always kind of liked her myself.

    Yes, your Magic Wings is the one they visited. gparents in Westfield. Apartment where Kit was staying is in Northampton.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very interesting "look" at this eternally compelling subject.



    Aloha, Friend!


    Comfort Spiral

    ReplyDelete
  5. I got to see the Mona Lisa in the mid-60's when I lived in Paris for a few months that included 3 straight weeks of going to the Louvre every day. Yes, I was a glutton for both art and punishment. Back then she hung in a big gallery surrounded by hundreds of other paintings. There were others that attracted my interest more but I do remember her. Did you read the theory postulated recently (I can't remember by whom) that she's a self portrait done by Leonardo?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bobbie: I'm sure they had an excellent time at Magic Wings. It's a very nice place to spend an afternoon, especially in winter when we're so sick of the cold. A friend of mine is part-owner of the conservatory.

    Cloudia: cute pun - good to have you by!

    Susan: I would wait in line for hours to see her and I'm quite sure I wouldn't be disappointed. Hell, I like just looking at her in books and websites; nevermind! ;-)

    There is a de Vinci portrait - perhaps a self-portrait, that looks remarkably like Mona Lisa, only with curly hair. I'll have to dig that one up.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Doing your own portrait as a girl... now there is something that never occured to me. But I think I would make a homely girl, while Leonardo,(assuming that might be him as Mona Lisa) was apparently close enough to pretty, so maybe that's why I never thought of it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Steve: I'm not convinced she's actually Leonardo but if she is, well...I don't think it's about her beauty, though as you said, she is pretty enough. It's more the mystery that surrounds that smile.

    Just as an aside: I think she would be more attractive if she had eyebrows! I guess it was the fashion of the time to pluck them or shave them straight off!

    ReplyDelete

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