Leonardo da Vinci’s painting the Mona Lisa is considered by scholars and the general public to be one of the most famous works of art from the Renaissance. One physician has taken a closer look at the portrait, and believes that it reveals that its subject, Lisa Gherardini, was suffering from thyroid issues.
Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the medical director for the Heart and Vascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, spoke with WCVB news, where he suggests that a number of signs in the painting reveal that Lisa had an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. He points out that in portrait she had no eyebrows, a receding hairline, a lesion near her left eye, a puffy neck and swollen hands, all of which point to problems with her thyroid.
Other art historians have pointed out that the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows (or eyelashes), but believe that this was a trend in early 16th century for women to pluck these hairs.
Dr. Mehra believes these features in the Mona Lisa were not mistakes by the Renaissance master. He notes, “that is the thing about the Mona Lisa is that Leonardo da Vinci was an uncanny artist who depicted accuracy like no one else. He was an anatomist.”
The Mona Lisa is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. Lisa Gherardini was an Italian nobleman, and it was her husband who commissioned Leonardo to make a portrait of her. The masterpiece has been kept at the Louvre in Paris since 1804, and researchers have made careful analysis, even finding small details like hidden letters and that the background landscape was Montefeltro in the Marche.
See also: Leonardo da Vinci: A Restless Life