The Mona Lisa effect is that eerie feeling that the eyes of painting are following us. But, according to Gernot Horstmann and Sebastian Loth, of Bielefeld University, Germany, the peepers of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece don’t actually do this at all. Their research, published in iPerception, is available here.
Newsweek’s article on the research includes a comment on this research by Christopher Tyler. Newsweek’s Kashmira Gander notes:
“Professor Christopher Tyler, a visual neuroscientist at City, University of London, U.K., who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek: “It seems very obvious that Mona Lisa is looking to your right, so it does not surprise me that the researchers were able to show that this is how people perceive it.
“What nobody seems to have explained, despite reams of text written on it, is why it works for some front-facing images and not others. My own view is that the key variable is the perceived depth, or 3D impression, of the face.
“When the face seems flat, the eyes following effect should be much less than when it has a lot of depth. I am not aware of any specific test of this hypothesis, however.”
There is an extensive controversy as to whom Carroll’s ‘Alice’ illustrations were based on. Jeffrey Stern argues that it was Annie Miller, the poor redhead who became the model and lover of William Holman Hunt and other pre-Raphaelites. But there was a passel of other similar pre-Raphaelite redheads, including Christina Rossetti, to whom Carroll presented a copy of the tale, Alice Gray, whose family he photographed, Tryphena Foord, the probable model for Arthur Hughes’ painting of ‘The Lady of the Lilacs’ owned by Carroll, Elizabeth Siddal whom he met in Oxford, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris, the muses of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Ellen Terry, the model for a series of paintings including ‘Choosing’ by George Frederick Watts, a young actress who was lauded, loved and photographed by Carroll over at least a decade.