The Mona Lisa, touted the most famous painting in the world, has fascinated many with her enigmatic smile. However, neuroscientists are now saying that the facial expression might have been a “lie,” as the lips of the woman in the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece are not a marker of true happiness.
An international research group recently wrote in their study entitled Unraveling the asymmetry of Mona Lisa smile that, basing on “influent theories of emotion neuropsychology,” it can be inferred that her “asymmetric smile” is “non-genuine.”
The scientists also explained that it was unlikely that the subject, having been asked to sit still for hours, could manage a genuinely happy smile throughout, though Da Vinci was thought to have jesters around to keep his models entertained.
The study also sought the opinions of 42 people to look at images of both sides of the Mona Lisa’s lips and label the emotions they perceived them to show. 92.8 percent said the left half appeared to express joy, but none said the same of the right side.
The authors of the study noted that a sincere smile would cause both cheeks to rise and the corners of the eyes to contract, known as the Duchenne smile, while Mona Lisa’s famous smile was non-Duchenne.
It is unknown whether Leonardo da Vinci purposefully painted the “non-felt” emotion knowing what it could convey, or even asked the subject to make such a smile. The rest is up to speculation.