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]

Kids Can Join Children's Book Author Mo Willems for Daily "Lunch Doodles" on YouTube

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

For children interested in taking drawing lessons, there are few better teachers than Mo Willems. The bestselling author and illustrator has been charming young readers for years with his Pigeon picture book series. Now, from the Kennedy Center, where he's currently the artist-in-residence, Willems is hosting daily "Lunch Doodles" videos that viewers can take part in wherever they are. New lessons are posted to the Kennedy Center's YouTube channel each weekday at 1:00 p.m. EST.

With the novel coronavirus outbreak closing schools across the country, many kids are now expected to continue their education from home. For the next several weeks, Willems will be sharing his time and talents with bored kids (and their overworked parents) in the form of "Lunch Doodles" episodes that last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In the videos, Willems demonstrates drawing techniques, shares insights into his process, and encourages kids to come up with stories to go along with their creations.

"With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves in new circumstances, I have decided to invite everyone into my studio once a day for the next few weeks," Willems writes for the center's blog. "Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons. We are going to doodle together and explore ways of writing and making."

If kids don't want to doodle during lunch, the videos will remain on YouTube for them to tune in at any time. The Kennedy Center is also publishing downloadable activity pages to go with each episode on its website [PDF]. For more ways to entertain children in quarantine or isolation, check out these livestreams from zoos, cultural institutions, and celebrities.

Dreaming of Your Favorite City? This Website Will Create a Personalized Haiku Poem About It for You

OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
vladystock/iStock via Getty Images

You no longer need to spend all your free time struggling to capture the vibe of your favorite city in a few carefully chosen syllables—OpenStreetMap Haiku will do it for you.

The site, developed by Satellite Studio, uses the information from crowdsourced global map OpenStreetMap to create a haiku that describes any location in the world. According to Travel + Leisure, the poems are based on data points like supermarkets, shops, local air quality, weather, time of day, and more.

“Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world,” the developers wrote in a blog post. “The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible. Also probably horrifying for haiku purists (sorry).”

The results are also often waggishly accurate. For example, here’s a haiku describing Washington, D.C.:

“The same pot of coffee
Fresh coffee from Starbucks
The desk clerk.”

In other words, it seems like the city runs on compulsive coffee refills and paperwork. And if you thought life in Brooklyn, New York, was a combination of alcohol-fueled outings to basement bars and traffic-filled trips into the city, this poem probably confirms your suspicions:

“Getting drunk at The Nest
Today in New York
Green. Red. Green. Red.”

The website’s creators were inspired by Naho Matsuda’s Every Thing Every Time, a 2018 art installation outside Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, that used data points to generate an ever-changing poem about the city.

Wondering what OpenStreetMap Haiku has to say about your hometown? Explore the map here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER