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Mona Lisa: The Enigma of the Smile

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 37 Issue: 6 Dated: (November 1992) Pages: 1706-1711
J E Borkowski
Date Published
6 pages
This dental analysis of the Mona Lisa, based upon the assumption of Leonardo Da Vinci's accurate portrayal of the features he observed in the subject, concludes that the enigmatic smile is not a smile at all, but rather a solemn expression whose appearance is characteristic of people who have lost their front teeth.
The scar under the lower lip of the Mona Lisa is similar to that created when, as a result of force, the incisal edges of the teeth have pierced the face with a penetrating wound. This same trauma can easily produce the loss of either the upper or lower anterior teeth, or both. Normally, the upper lip is supported by the anterior teeth and projects slightly forward to the lower lip. With the loss of the anterior teeth, this forward projection is lost. The changes evident in the perioral area of the face of the Mona Lisa are such as occur when the anterior teeth are lost. The loss of the anterior teeth produces an alteration of the contour of the mouth that is distinctive. In types where the lips are thin and require support from the teeth, the alteration is striking and reasonably predictable. The changes consist of alterations in the contours of the lips and their relations. The lips fall inward instead of inclining outward as they do when supported by the teeth. The enigmatic "smile" of the Mona Lisa is thus due to tooth loss produced by a blunt, traumatic injury to her mouth. 4 figures and 2 references