Breaking News

Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile is NOT the result of Da Vinci's model suffering from a brain disorder and she didn't have hypothyroidism as has been claimed, says medical specialist

Claims that the woman who inspired the Mona Lisa suffered from severe hypothyroidism and that her enigmatic smile was due to a muscle-brain disorder are untrue, an expert claims, according to Daily Mail.

In recent years, rheumatologists and endocrinologists examining the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci have suggested that the woman who sat for the portrait hundreds of years ago suffered skin lesions and swelling as a result of a lipid disorder and heart disease.

But Dr Michael Yafi from the University of Texas says there was likely nothing wrong her - and she would have shown more visible symptoms if she was suffering from these medical problems. 

The painting's discolouration was the most likely explanation behind her yellow skin tone and her asymmetric smile is nothing more than her enigma, he said.

And she may not even have been able to sit for the portrait at the time had she suffered from the associated symptoms of muscle weakness.

But Dr Michael Yafi at the Division of Paediatric Endocrinology, at The University of Texas noted in his latest analysis that claims the Mona Lisa suffered from an under-active thyroid, which gave her an enlarged neck and made her facial muscles weak, are unfounded.

In a written statement, Dr Yafi said: 'I felt a personal responsibility to defend the 'Mona Lisa' and the fascinating lady the painting portrays.

'She has inspired thousands of people over the past few centuries. I couldn't have the public thinking she had hypothyroidism, when it seems to me she was euthyroid, meaning her thyroid was normal.

Artists often depicted what they saw in society. Sculptures from the ancient Andean and Egyptian civilisations recorded endemic goiters in areas of environmental iodine deficiency, like the Tuscany region where [The Mona Lisa] lived.

But the doctor noted how the sitter would not have been able to even sit for a painting if she was suffering from the type of muscle weakness and retardation that have been claimed in the past.

The paediatrics endocrinologist based in Houston attributed other symptoms that have been mentioned such as her yellow skin as simply due to the 'discoloration because of the age of the artwork' and called medical diagnosis based on these subtle traits 'risky'.

He did mention however, that the Mona Lisa who was said to have been pregnant before the portrait, could have had peripartum thyroiditis, a temporary inflammation of the thyroid after pregnancy. 

This is line with other medical opinions that have been previously made by .

Little is known about the life of Lisa Gherardini, the Italian noblewoman who is thought to be the subject of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Her hands in the painting show signs of swelling, and it appears her hair is thinning, it has been claimed.

Previous medical experts have also pointed to her skin tone and what some say could be a goiter – which would appear as an enlargement in the neck – as symptoms of various conditions.

Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland does not produce high enough amounts of key hormones, can cause thinning hair, yellow skin, and goitres.

Dr Mandeep R. Mehra, medical director of the Heart & Vascular Centre at Brigham and Women's Hospital, previously said that hypothyroidism could explain these traits.

Mehra and Hilary Campbell of the University of California Santa Barbara wrote: ‘The enigma of the Mona Lisa can be resolved by a simple medical diagnosis of a hypothryroidism-related illness.

‘In many ways, it is the allure of the imperfections of disease that give this masterpiece its mysterious reality and charm.’

While previous analyses have suggested other conditions may have been at play, Dr Mehra says a heart disease and lipid disorder would be unlikely, considering she lived to the age of 63.

With these disorders, she likely would have died much younger given the medical limitations of the 16th century.

The inflammation of the thyroid after pregnancy was also a possibility according to Dr Mehra at the time.

Diet in Italy during this time is also known to have lacked iodine, which could explain the goiter, or swollen thyroid, said Dr Mehra.

‘It is possible that she suffered from a subclinical presentation of peripartum thyroiditis, with an early manifestation of hyperthyroidism eventually setting into a chronic phase of hypothyroidism,’ the researchers wrote.

‘This, coupled with the living conditions and iodine-deficient diet of this period in the Florentine region, would have characteristically led to the secondary manifestations of underlying hypothyroidism.’

N.H.Kh

Share