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...Mona Lisa's smile
The word "giocondo" is not only a family name, but also an Italian word meaning "jovial" or "self-amused." As it happens, enigmatic facial expressions – especially smiles – are something of a Da Vinci trademark. Yet this particular smile has sparked hot debate for nearly five hundred years.
Mona Lisa detail - smile
"Everybody's fascinated with the smile," says author Seymour Reit. "Michelangelo was intrigued, called it an ironic smile. Other people have described it as sly, sublime, enticing, mysterious, repellent, witty, scornful, eerie, magnetic, sensual, remote, all wise and ice cold. There's even one theory put out by some dental expert who said, 'She's not smiling at all; she's having trouble with her gums!'"

Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo's biographer, wrote that while Leonardo painted, he employed singers and musicians to keep Madam Lisa amused, so her face would not show the melancholy painters often give to portraits: "And in this portrait, there is so pleasing an expression, and a smile so sweet, that while looking at it one thinks it rather divine than human."
Mona Lisa with musicians
Whatever Leonardo's intentions, millions have seen the same smile, yet responded in many different ways. Is it a muted grimace? Or a smirk? Or perhaps as Freud deduced, it is simply the smile of Leonardo's mother.


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