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What Is So Special About The Mona Lisa's Smile?

Thursday, December 16, 2010
When you think of fine art and priceless paintings, Leonardo da Vinci no doubt comes to mind. It may be a surprise to learn, however, that the same technique Leonardo used to create lifelike works of art is the same technique a master dentist professional uses for reproducing a beautiful "Mona Lisa Smile." Leonardo's layering technique used to achieve the Mona Lisa's alluring, dreamlike quality is identical to the method that a true artistic ceramist will utilize to create lifelike dental restorations.

The cabalistically alluring smile of lady Mona Lisa remains a mystery, but French scientists say they have cracked a few secrets of the famous painting. Researchers at The Louvre have studied seven of the museum"s Leonardo da Vinci paintings, including the Mona Lisa, to analyze the master's use of successive ultra-thin layers of paint and glaze – a technique that gave his works their soft and sensual quality.

Specialists from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France found that da Vinci painted up to 30 layers of paint and glaze on his works to achieve astonishingly high levels of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40 micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair, researcher Philippe Walter said Friday. The technique is called "sfumato," and it allowed da Vinci to give outlines and contours a hazy quality (creating an illusion of depth and shadow). The technique's use is well-known, but scientific study on it has been limited because, until the advent of advanced laser technology, tests required actual samples from the paintings.

Just as Leonardo da Vinci used the sfumato technique to intricately layer paint and glaze (creating beautiful works of art a master artist uses similar techniques of layering porcelain powder to create realistic dental restorations. Dr. Courey chooses from approximately 30 different shades of porcelain powder, which are layered to create the illusion of a natural tooth. The result is an extremely high quality restoration, indistinguishable from an organically created tooth. It is important to note that the vast majority of porcelain technicians use only a few rudimentary shades of porcelain powder, resulting in a mediocre restoration which may look slightly artificial.

Prosthodontists like Dr. Courey, rely on an integrated team of clinical and laboratory experts to assist in creating lifelike porcelain restorations. If you have questions, please visit for more information on Dr. Courey and his team.
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