Posted on May 7, 2014
Was the Mona Lisa intended to be stereoscopic?
Did you know there are two almost identical versions of the Mona Lisa? No? Me neither. Long story short, some scientists scanned an “insignificant” painting and found that beneath many layers of paint sat an almost identical copy of Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Upon further study, it appears the second version was painted from a slightly different perspective, possibly by one of Da Vinci’s students or maybe by Da Vinci himself.
There’s a great article on Discovery.com that suggests the paintings may have been intended to be viewed in stereoscopy. In other words, the newly discovered version would be seen only in the the viewers left eye, while the “original” would be viewed in the right. There’s tons of great stuff in the article, but I wanted to try using my stereoscopic wiggle-gif technique on these two images to see how they’d look.
The version above takes the original image and lines it up with the newer version… which has been largely digitally restored or something… so the differences in color are a little jarring (even with slight color matching)
I think the black and white version is the best for these purposes. Here you can see the image does in fact seem to “wiggle” the same as one of my 3D photos would. There are some foreground details that seem to change consistency, but the depth seems to come through in the wiggle. Whether or not it was intended is still hard to tell, though it’s unlikely there would have been an easy way for Da Vinci to show these two images in a stereoscopic manner. It wasn’t until the 1840s, with the help of photography, that stereoscopic glasses and similar effects (of limiting two images to two separate eyes) came about.
Though clearly drawn from two slightly different perspectives, I don’t believe these paintings were ever meant to be seen together. The reason for the alternating views was probably just related to the obvious fact that two artists couldn’t stand in the same space. It is rather impressive though how consistent these two paintings are though. Despite a few big changes, like the placement of the veil on the forehead, the two pieces line up so well.