Mona Lisa’s Diagnosis

I believe most people who are fascinated by Science, also have an underlying interest in Arts and Sculptures. And if it’s “Mona Lisa”, then none can stop their mind to recall a face of a lady with an intriguing smile in her two eyes. Many centuries have passed since the world got this masterpiece. Still, the aesthetes from all corners of the world could not resist themselves to reopen the pages of the glorious history of Italy to find out the mystery of that masterpiece of all time. The duality of the greatest artist and his art gave humanity a source of life. People could live with it during the ultimate darkness of imperialism. 

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa, the hallmark of Renaissance:

It was the time of the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci started making this portrait probably of Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini. She was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine silk merchant in 1503. After completion of the painting nearly late 1516 it was first put on display in the court of King Francis I of France. Now, this portrait is the property of the French Republic itself, on permanent display at the Louvre, Paris since 1797.

Leonardo da Vinci

Artistic Diagnosis:

Everything was okay but until the scientists started their quest to solve the eeriness of the painting. The painting is the highest known insurance valuation in the world till now. The studies revealed more interesting secrets. The enigmatic smile of the lady attracted people from around the world for many centuries because of two main reasons. Firstly, who Gherardini was – people knew very little about her. Secondly, why Da Vinci immortalized her with a look of gentle amusement. At that time all other portraits from the era normally featured solemn faces.

But wait, there is a medical secret behind the smile.

Dr. Mehra & Hilary’s Report:

Cardiologist Dr. Mandeep Mehra & Hilary Campbell explained that Lisa Gherardini’s seemingly yellow-tinged skin, receding hairline, lack of eyebrows or eyelashes, and puffy neck could be a sign of underlying hypothyroidism. Due to deficiency of T3, T4 hormones liver can’t convert carotene into Vitamin A. So the excess carotene then deposits in the outer layer of the skin. On top of weight gain, fatigue, depression, etc individuals affected by hypothyroidism experience thinning and coarsely textured hair.

Iodine deficiency and auto-immune attack on the gland causing enlarged thyroid gland is the main reason for this hypothyroidism. We call it goiter. They also suggested that advanced hypothyroidism may have led to nerve impairment and facial muscle weakness. Maybe which is resisting the lady to smile properly. That’s maybe the mystery behind the infamous smile. Mehra and Campbell wrote in a letter to the editor published in ‘Mayo Clinic Proceedings’,

“First, during the Renaissance period, eating habits in Italy were primarily vegetarian, based on cereals, root vegetables, and legumes, and with little meat. Seafood was uncommon inland and famine was common. Thus, the diet was one that was often iodine deficient, and more importantly, the eating habits promoted the development of goiters.” 

Dr. Franco’s Theory:

Dr. Vito Franco, from Palermo University, gave another report. He said that the lady showed clear signs of a build-up of fatty acids under the skin. Which is due to the much cholesterol in the body. He also suggests there seems to be a lipoma, or benign fatty-tissue tumor, in her right eye. According to Franco,

“Illness exists within the body, it does not have a metaphysical or supernatural dimension”. 

Mr. Cottle’s Analysis:

Mr. Pascal Cotte, a French engineer, used infrared and ultraviolet sensors while scanning the painting. He spent 3,000 hours analyzing data from scans he made of the painting in the Louvre’s laboratory. This 240-megapixel scan revealed traces of facial hair obliterated by a restoration that he exhibited at the Metreon complex in San Francisco. He added,

“Da Vinci changed his mind about the position of two fingers on her left hand, her face was originally wider and her smile more expressive.”

 Infrared ray scanned portrait
Is she really happy?

Researchers at the University of Illinois developed software. The program draws on a database of young female faces to derive an average “neutral” expression. University of Amsterdam’s computer analyzed this painting using “emotion recognition” software. According to New Scientist magazine, the result was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.

Thus, scientists again exposed the limitless relationship between Science and Arts. The artistic diagnosis might have revealed the reality behind the mystery which makes thousands of people flocked to the museum of Louvre every year but it would never confirm it. Do you know why? It’ll love to keep it as such because beauty lies in mystery and vice versa.



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Author: Shubhankar Kundu

A fifth-year BS-MS student and a DST-INSPIRE fellow at IISER Bhopal, pursuing a major in Chemistry. Loves writing poems and painting during leisure times. Has a knack for music and loves playing the violin. Also, loves reciting Bengali poems and football. A die-hard fan of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the legendary Indian freedom fighter. Exploring unknown places and photography, are some other noteworthy hobbies. Associated with the core team of TQR since 2018.

2 thoughts on “Mona Lisa’s Diagnosis

  1. Saikat Jana says:

    Such a great piece it was!!
    Really amazing!💯


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