Not just Mona Lisa's smile? Da Vinci's La Bella Principessa also has 'uncatchable' expression - News - Art - The Independent

Not just Mona Lisa's smile? Da Vinci's La Bella Principessa also has 'uncatchable' expression

 

It is the most-visited, the most written about and the most parodied work of art in the world but the ‘uncatchable smile’ that makes Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa so special is not unique according to experts.

Another painting, La Bella Principessa, which predates da Vinci’s most famous work, also has a smile which seems to change according to the viewpoint of the onlooker.

Academics suggest that the technique which would later give his most famous subject her mysterious allure was first executed on the lesser-known painting by the Renaissance master.

When viewed directly the slant of the subject’s mouth appears to turn downwards, but as the eye moves elsewhere to examine other features, the edges of her mouth appear to take an upward turn. Her sideways smile can only be seen indirectly, much like Mona Lisa's.

The painting is thought to depict 13-year-old Bianca Sforza, the daughter of Ludovico Sforza ("Il Moro") duke of Milan, before her marriage to a commander of the Milanese forces. It is made more poignant by the fact that the girl died within months of her marriage, having suffered a suspected ectopic pregnancy.

"The results from the experiments support the hypothesis that that there is a gaze-dependent illusory effect in the portrait of La Bella Principessa,” said Alessandro Soranzo, from Sheffield Hallam's department of psychology, who co-authored the study.

"Although it remains a question whether the illusion was intended, given Leonardo’s mastery of the technique and its subsequent use in the Mona Lisa, it is quite conceivable that the ambiguity of the effect was intentional, based on explicit artistic skill and used in line with Leonardo’s maxim that portraits should reflect some ‘inner turmoil of the mind’."

Co-author Michael Pickard, from the University of Sunderland, said: "With his knowledge of the turbulence surrounding the Court of Milan at that time, Leonardo would have been aware of inner tensions between the fresh innocence of a young girl on the threshold of womanhood and her impending marriage and courtly destiny.”

"It is also not difficult to believe that Leonardo would have seen below the surface and wanted to capture the subtle essence of the girl, using a technique he would so famously master in the Mona Lisa."

The Mona Lisa, which is around 500 years old, is the star attraction at Musée du Louvre in Paris. The small portrait of an obscure Florentine gentlewoman, Lisa Gherdardini, is thought to attract 90 percent of the museum's intake - despite it housing 6,000 other paintings.

Archaeologists hope that one of two skeletons unearthed in a Tuscan convent in October will be shown to be that of the model who became Mona Lisa. In their hunt for the remains of the most famous portrait-sitter in history, experts have been digging in the former convent of St Ursula in Florence since April.

In September a Swiss foundation unveiled what it said was an earlier version of da Vinci's masterpiece, claiming it was completed over a decade before the famous Renaissance painting.

The work, known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa, was exhibited publicly in Geneva by the Mona Lisa Foundation, which claims that 35 years of research, numerous tests and mathematical comparisons have led experts to conclude that it predated the Louvre painting by 11 to 12 years.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week