Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile has been the subject of debate for years, as at first glance, she appears to be smiling, until the smile is gazed upon directly, from which it appears as if her mouth is downturned. The debate whether Da Vinci intended for this to happen has still yet to be decided.

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, c.1504, Florence, Italy Musée du Louvre, Paris, France Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, c.1504, Florence, Italy
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

Dr Alessandro Soranzo, psychology professor and visual perception expert at Sheffield Hallam University led the research into the comparison between La Bella Principessa and La Gioconda. The former features, Bianca Sforza, the 13-year-old daughter of the duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, before she is to be wed to a commander of the Milanese forces.

The research included comparing how viewers perceived both the paintings at different distances and levels of focus, with Piero del Pollaiuolo's Portrait of a Girl used as a control. The researchers discovered that from a greater distance or with a greater blur, both Da Vinci's paintings were perceived as having smiles, whilst Del Pollaiuolo's subject did not. Although Dr Soranzo states that this is not conclusive proof that Da Vinci used the same 'smile' technique for both portraits.

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