It was the 3rd of July 2006. It was 6.00am in the morning and the sun was ‘cracking the flags’. I love the the 3rd of July. It is my birthday.
I passed my 21st birthday a few years back. This birthday felt the same as my 21st, except, that I celebrated it in my home town of Liverpool. In truth, I felt no different to when I was 21, except my wife said I now had less hair and even less muscles. At least I had reached this milestone.
Two good friends of mine, in Liverpool and three colleagues had passed away, before the age of 50 so I was grateful. I was even more grateful, when my wife woke me, to tell me, she had packed our bags, booked a weekend in Paris and the train was leaving in 2 hours.
My wife & I adore Paris. We love the ambience, the language, the food and of course, the culture. We arrived at the hotel, checked in & headed off to the Louvre.
For a man with an unlimited passion for art, I was about to gaze on the Mona Lisa for the first time. Like most people, I had seen it in books but this was to be a momentous experience.
I have been advising clients about images for over 30 years. My particular forte is Large Format imaging. In Large Format images, the best viewing distance is 10 – 20 feet, depending on the size of the image.
I entered the gallery, containing the Mona Lisa and as most people tend to do, I scanned it, focusing on the famous smile, the hands and the beguiling background.
My perception of the painting was incredible. Her smile was stronger and more apparent when I was looking away from it, than when I was looking directly at it. I tried scanning the painting from the middle, left & right side of the room and this phenomena was consistent each time.
I also noticed that her eyes follow you around the room. People say this happens with most photographs but in the case of the Mona Lisa, my wife noticed it too.
I then asked my wife to stand directly in front of the Mona Lisa & tell me what she saw. She said the Mona Lisa’s smile disappeared. I think Leonardo Da Vinci painted this masterpiece, using different vantage points.
I think he deliberately created this phenomena, in order to make the painting as memorable & as mysterious as possible.
As a scientist, he may have been aware that our peripheral vision can see some things better than our central vision. In Large Format imaging, I often look at images in this way to decide the best size, position & luminousity to create maximum impact.
We should all be grateful to geniuses like Leonardo Da Vinci for their pioneering work in communication, perception & imagery.
4 years later & I still find it slightly eerie that a 500 year old woman possesses such a beguiling smile & bewitching eyes, that can follow you to every corner of the room.
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the Digital Circus.