What Emotion Do Most People See in the “Mona Lisa”?

Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo -- known to the world as the Mona Lisa -- has been the subject of intense scrutiny for centuries. Was she happy or sad, and why did da Vinci depict her with such an ambiguous facial expression? In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers concluded that nearly 100 percent of participants felt she was smiling, and that she appeared to be genuinely happy. Researchers showed participants a series of "photoshopped" images, in which the curvature of the Mona Lisa's curious smile was altered to varying degrees, and asked for their impressions about the emotions depicted in the painting.

Mona Lisa, men have named you:

  • The Italian Renaissance portrait was completed in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, sometime between 1503 and 1506.
  • The painting, acquired by King Francis I of France, is now the property of the French Republic. It has been on display behind a glass barrier at the Louvre in Paris since 1797.
  • In Italian, "Mona" is a polite form of address, originating as ma donna -- similar to "Ma’am," "Madam," or "My Lady" in English.
More Info: Time magazine

Discussion Comments


Rumour has it that she was smiling because she had just found out she was pregnant.On further examination of the picture, it was found she had no wedding ring on her finger. Perhaps she was smiling because she had just found out that she wasn't pregnant!


The story didn't say what happened when the smile was altered by photoshop. Left the story hanging in the air.

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