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It's perhaps the most famous painting in the world — Leonardo da Vinci's the Mona Lisa.
We'll never know what da Vinci was thinking when he painted the woman with the enigmatic smile. But new research offers some clues into what he might have been seeing.
Based on da Vinci's work, there is evidence that the artist had strabismus — a condition that affects about three percent of the population and is usually detected at birth. One eye is straight, while the other eye can drift. In da Vinci's case, his strabismus was thought to be extropic, meaning it was intermittent.
The findings were published this week in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology by professor Christopher Tyler from the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. To prove his hypothesis, Tyler had to do some artistic sleuthing because there are few validated portraits of the artist.
Tyler based his conclusions on six images — two sculptures, two oil paintings, and two drawings done by either da Vinci or his first mentor, Andrea del Verrochio. All of these works are thought to contain elements of da Vinci's face because he believed artists reflected their own appearance in their work.
Da Vinci once wrote that "the soul guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." By measuring the eyes, pupils, irises, and eyelids in each of these works, Tyler discovered that there was a misalignment of about 10.3 degrees between the two eyes — possible evidence of strabismus.
Tyler concluded that in Virtuvian Man, one of da Vinci's most famous works, the artist was aware of his own condition. "In that case he draws the pupils different sizes," said Tyler. "He's using it as an artistic way of giving you the sense that one eye is seeing more clearly than the other."
But how did strabismus affect da Vinci's overall work? Tyler said that when both our eyes are working correctly we see the world in three dimensions. When one eye strays, the brain compensates by forcing the good eye to work harder in two dimensions. And that could give some artists a unique edge.
"Some forms of strabismus are thought to facilitate artistic work by suppressing the deviating eye, which creates two-dimensional monocular vision advantageous to painting and drawing," Tyler said. In da Vinci's case, Tyler believes he painted in a way that masked the strabismus. "In the Mona Lisa, he's famous for using 30 layers of micro-thin paint to capture the three dimensional modelling of the face."
Leonardo da Vinci wasn't the only artist believed to have had strabismus. Degas, Picasso, and Rembrandt were thought to have the condition based on the eye alignment in their self-portraits. Strabismus is treatable, either through surgery or vision therapy.
Lisa Christian, a professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in Kitchener, Ont., said the findings provide insight into how people live with strabismus. "When you find people that have a different vision than what you have, it's hard to relate to them. This is kind of a glimpse into how people with this condition see the world."
Tyler said it's another fascinating detail in the amazing life of Leonardo da Vinci. "He's such a universal intellect. The range and scope of what he explored was just astounding. And this just adds to that story."
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Leonardo DiCaprio had one fun-filled Saturday!
First, he started things off with a game of volleyball on the beach outside LA. The Oscar-winner was joined by Jamie Foxx, Tobey Maguire, Gerard Butler and Ruby Rose for the afternoon outing.
As usual, the 43-year-old actor kept things casual in brown shorts and a grey t-shirt. He completed the laid-back look with a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses.
Later in the day, ET learned that DiCaprio took his girlfriend Camila Morrone out to eat at Taverna Tony in Malibu, California, where he rubbed elbows with another acclaimed Hollywood power player.
The Oscar winner tried his best to avoid being recognized — but director Guillermo del Toro, also dining at the restaurant, spotted him and approached him for a quick chat. DiCaprio and del Toro spoke for around five minutes at the actor’s table before the director moved his table from inside to the restaurant’s patio, just two tables over from DiCaprio.
As for DiCaprio and his 21-year-old girlfriend, the source says they were careful not to flaunt any PDA while dining out together.
“There wasn’t any touching, but they were definitely talking throughout the meal,” the eyewitness says. “He had his head down the entire time, like he didn’t want people to notice him.”
When DiCaprio isn’t enjoying his weekends, he’s hard at work on Quentin Tarantino’s next film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, co-starring Brad Pitt.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where onetime TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) make their way in an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.”
Get more news on DiCaprio the clip below.
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Jamie Foxx’s 50th birthday party was a star-studded affair, which included a rare appearance from his rumored girlfriend, Katie Holmes. Foxx celebrated his big day at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, and also performed for his guests onstage, an eyewitness at the bash tells ET. The eyewitness says Holmes sat with Foxx’s Django Unchained co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, at a private table surrounded with a few friends to watch the performance. Holmes was snapped in the crowd, wearing a pearl…
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