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


  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 ;)

  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.

  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.

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

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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!


Thank you for taking the time to say you've been here.

I am sorry to say that I don't publish anonymous comments unless I know you through your initials, first name or blog name. I don't publish comments that have ANY kind of commercial or 'for sale' links.

You are Invited to Scroll Down! :-)

Please feel free to scroll down and look at the followers list, badges, photos and tons and tons of great links!

Search This Blog

In Memory of Bobbie

In Memory of Bobbie
Almost There

ARTLEX Art Dictionary

Kick Homophobia in The Butt: Add Your Name to the List of Supporters

Kick Homophobia in The Butt:  Add Your Name to the List of Supporters
click photo

Northampton Prop 8 Protest

Northampton Prop 8 Protest

It's Only Love

It's Only Love
See More Elopment Pictures here

Million Doors for Peace

Lines and Colors

Lines and Colors
A New Art Resource I Just Discovered!

Emily Dickinson - The Belle of Amherst

Emily Dickinson - The Belle of Amherst
"When the Amherst sphinx styled herself a pagan, she meant she didn’t believe in the biblical God. What sort of deity, if any, she did believe in is hard to pinpoint."
-- Gary Sloan, "Emily Dickinson: Pagan Sphinx,"

National Protest Against Prop 8

National Protest Against Prop 8

My Daughters

My Daughters

Code Pink

"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
Love and compassion is the Universal religion. That is my religion.
~ The Dalai Lama

Blog Archive

Fair Use

I believe that the images and writing posted here fall under the "fair use" section of the U.S. copyright law, as they are intended for educational purposes and are not in a medium that is of commercial nature.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin