Scientists unlock secret behind Mona Lisa’s mystic smile

August 23rd, 2010 - 2:10 pm ICT by ANI  

Sydney, Aug 23 (ANI): For years and years, Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile has baffled experts. But not any more.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius in many ways, and his technique of sfumato was just one such example.

Sfumato is a range of subtle optical effects that blur outlines, soften transitions and blend shadows like smoke. It’s a technique that the artist mastered in his timeless Mona Lisa.

And now, scientists have discovered how.

Philippe Walter of the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musees de France and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility found that the ’shadowy effect’ in Da Vinci’s paintings was characterized the use of glaze layers or a very thin paint and by the nature of the pigments or additives.

Using X-rays, the researchers saw how the layers of glaze and paint had been built up on different areas.

Mixed with subtly different pigments, the glaze creates the slight blurring and shadows around the mouth that give the Mona Lisa the barely noticeable smile that seems to disappear when looked at directly.

‘The gradation of tones or colours from light to dark is barely perceptible. Above all, the way the flesh is rendered gives rise to many comments because of its crucial role in the fascination exerted by Leonardo’s portraits,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Walther as saying.

‘The thinness of the glaze layers must be underlined: it confirms the dexterity of the painter to apply such thin layers. Moreover, the measured slow and regular evolution of the thickness of the glaze layers implies that numerous layers have to be applied to obtain the darkest shadows,’ he added. (ANI)

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