Mona Lisa had thyroid problem

Accounts for 'yellow skin, thinning hair and goitre'

(ANSA) - Rome, September 5 - The Mona Lisa had thyroid problems that account for her yellow skin, thinning hair and a possible goitre on her neck, two US researchers say.
    In a paper published in the September 2018 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Brigham and Women's Hospital researcher Mandeep Mehra and University of California, Santa Barbara's Hilary Campbell said that clinical hypothyroidism is a more likely diagnosis than previous hypotheses including a lipid disorder and heart disease.
    "The enigma of the Mona Lisa can be resolved by a simple medical diagnosis of a hypothyroidism-related illness," Dr.
    Mehra said.
    "In many ways, it is the allure of the imperfections of disease that give this masterpiece its mysterious reality and charm." Had Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic sitter Lisa Gherardini suffered from heart disease and a lipid disorder, it's unlikely she would have lived to such an advanced age given the limited treatments available in 16th century Italy.
    Dr. Mehra cited the Mona Lisa's thinning hair, yellow skin, and possible goitre as visual evidence of hypothyroidism.
    "The diet of Italians during the Renaissance was lacking in iodine, and resulting goiters (swollen thyroid gland) were commonly depicted in paintings and sculptures of the era," he said.
    "Additionally, Lisa Gherardini gave birth shortly before sitting for the portrait, which indicates the possibility of peripartum thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid after pregnancy)." The Mona Lisa's appearance has spurred a cottage industry of medical suggestions over the years.
    A Spanish neuroscientist recently claimed the secret of her "vanishing" smile is in the messages sent to the brain by the beholder's eyes.
    "Sometimes one channel wins over the other, and you see the smile, sometimes others take over and you don't see the smile," Alicante-based neuroscientist and art lover Luis Martinez Otero said in British science journal New Scientist.
    Otero asked volunteers to look at different-sized versions of the portrait from varying distances and in varying light.
    Closer or better-lit viewing brought the smile to life while dimmer and distant conditions made it fade.
    Using new computer software, Otero and his assistant Diego Alonso Pablos also gauged different observation positions.
    Dead-centre vision appeared to produce a fuller and smugger smile while peripheral views made Mona Lisa seem sad, they said.
    The reason, they concluded, is that different cells in the retina transmit different categories of information.
    These channels, Otero and Pablos say, encode data in different ways, leading to the apparent 'shape-shifting' on the lips of the woman captured by Leonardo in 1503-06.
    The Spanish study isn't the first to argue that viewing conditions determine how the smile appears.
    In 2000 a Harvard neuroscientist said the smile was easier to see from the side while in 2005 another US team said random noise could interfere with its appearance.
    Other theories are based on speculation about the woman recently identified as the wife of Florence merchant Francesco Del Giocondo (giving her Italian name 'La Gioconda').
    She was pregnant, or had recently given birth, some say, or perhaps she had just lost a loved one.
    Others have argued the painting is a self-portrait of the artist, or one of his favourite male lovers in disguise, citing the fact that Da Vinci kept the painting with him until his death at Amboise, France in 1519.
    The most curious theories have been provided by medical experts-cum-art lovers.
    One group of medical researchers has maintained that the sitter's mouth is so firmly shut because she was undergoing mercury treatment for syphilis which turned her teeth black.
    An American dentist has claimed that the tight-lipped expression was typical of people who have lost their front teeth, while a Danish doctor was convinced she suffered from congenital palsy which affected the left side of her face.
    A French surgeon has also put forth his view that she was semi-paralysed, perhaps as the result of a stroke.
    American feminist writer Camille Paglia simply concluded that the cool, appraising smile showed that "what Mona Lisa is ultimately saying is that males are unnecessary".