Smiling? With Her Cholesterol?

According to an article and post from Time this past weekend, a University of Palerno pathological anatomy professor (or UPPAP, as I refer to those kinds of eggheads) believes La Gioconda looks the way she does due to high cholesterol.  Specifically he cites two examples: xanthelasma, or an accumulation of cholesterol just beneath the skin, around her left eye, along with what looks like a fatty-tissue tumor on her right hand.

Aside from proving that Da Vinci took a hyper-accurate ‘warts and all’ approach to beauty (Leonardo would have HATED Photoshop), these types of theories prove little.  And there’s been an unending steam of them.  Scientists have subjected the painting to 3-D laser scanning, looking for hidden figures.  In 2006, researchers theorized her enigmatic bearing stemmed from being pregnant.  Around the same time, Dutch emotion-recognition software rated her expression as 83% happy, but also 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry.  A Japanese forensics expert claimed she would have a low voice, given her skeletal structure.  And sooner or later, most everyone notices that she is singularly absent of facial hair–no eyelashes, no eyebrows.

So maybe all these theories and speculation do prove something: the enduring power of the Mona Lisa’s story.  The fact is, we’re talking about a 21″ x 30″ portrait painted just over five hundred years ago on a piece of poplar.  More importantly, even after five centuries we’re still finding new things to say about it.  This painting is an exceptional example of sustainable story built on mystery, beauty, and intrigue.

There’s a lesson for marketers and their brands here: great stories take on lives of their own.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


mark wegener says:

This (the UPPAP’s interest in this topic, not your blog post) strikes me as being similar to trying to explain why a joke is funny. You may expand your knowledge of something, but it tells you more about the explainer than what they’re explaining.