Medicine: Diagnosing a Smile

If Mona Lisa del Giocondo had had any idea of the lengths to which critics would go in trying to explain her enigmatic smile in Leonardo da Vinci's famed portrait, she might have split her sides laughing. For in 450 years the smile has been variously interpreted as sly and tender, coquettish and aloof, cruel and compassionate, seductive and supercilious. At Yale University last week an eminent British physician, visiting professor of the history of medicine, coolly swept aside all such adjectives and offered his own theory: the lady was smiling with "placid satisfaction" because she was pregnant.

To support this retrospective...

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