Is it warm? Is it real? Or just low spatial frequency?

Livingstone, M.S.

Science 290(5495): 1299


ISSN/ISBN: 0091-7729
Accession: 009890804

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A letter advances an explanation for the elusive quality of the famous smile portrayed in Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. A popular idea to explain the Mona Lisa's smile is that da Vinci used a blurring sfumato technique on the subject's mouth. However, the letter proposes that her smile is more apparent to peripheral vision than to central vision; this is demonstrated by filtering the face portrayed in the painting to reveal very low spatial frequencies, whereby a clear smile is apparent, and to reveal high spatial frequencies, whereby the mouth is much flatter. This accords with how the human eye perceives different spatial frequencies and is analogous to the disappearance of a dim star that may be visible in peripheral view but not in direct vision.

Is it warm? Is it real? Or just low spatial frequency?