"The worldwide fascination for the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is due in particular to" the ambiguity of the expression on his face, "recalls a study published on Friday in Scientific Reports, which considers that it has managed to dispel a part mystery. ”

Source: La Presse

"The question" why is Mona Lisa smiling on this painting? Has shaken the art world for centuries. After carrying out a study that we can objectively question, the scientists decided: if she smiles, it is because she is quite simply happy. "

Source: SciencePost

This educational guide will allow students to learn more about Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting.


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:

- Discover the different mysteries surrounding the Mona Lisa canvas;
- Identify the mysterious elements on the work;
- Identify the emotions represented by certain emoticons;
- Discover the areas in which Leonardo da Vinci excelled.

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: The Mona Lisa is happy

First, display a picture of Mona Lisa in front of the class. Ask students what they know about this famous painting. What painter is this painting the work of? When was this painting painted? Where is it exhibited? Etc.

Tell students, if they haven't already covered, that this painting has intrigued art historians and other scholars for a long time. The last study published on La Joconde concerns her smile.
To discover the results of this study, invite students to consult this article from the Huffington Post.

Next, have students explain how the researchers conducted their study to come to the conclusion that La Mona Lisa's smile represents happiness. What other study has already looked at the same subject? What were the conclusions of this one?

ACTIVITY 2: The mysteries of the Mona Lisa

To start, ask students to identify the different elements presented in the TNI activity below:

Download the file in ActivInspire (.flp) format

Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)

Then, ask the students to get together in small work teams and choose one of the elements of the canvas, that is to say the smile, the look, the clothing or the landscape. They will then have to carry out research on the Web in order to describe these elements and to expose certain assumptions concerning them.

Invite them to use presentation software such as PowerPoint, tebeware, or software that allows them to create networks of concepts in order to present the results of their research.

ACTIVITY 3: Emotions

Recent studies of the Mona Lisa smile examined the emotion given off by Mona Lisa. A weakness of the last study was that it focused only on the gradation from sadness to joy and other types of emotions were not explored.

As a whole class, explore the different emotions that can be expressed in a face. Students will find that perceptions can be different from person to person.

Distribute the table below containing emoticons to the students and ask them, individually, to write down for each picture a few words that describe the state or emotion represented:

Download the file in ActivInspire (.flp) format
Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)

As a whole class, review the activity. Compare the emotions identified by the students for each emoticon. Ask the students about the differences between emoticons in the same row (#1 and #11, #2 and #12, 3 and 13, etc.).

For further

Leonardo da Vinci is not only recognized as a great painter. What other areas was he good at? To find out, read this article fromLarousse Encyclopedia.

More about the magazine

The eyes of the Mona Lisa: a new mystery unraveled
Article from Franceinfo, December 6, 2016

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo
Louvre Museum

The Mona Lisa: its history and its mysteries
Article from the ParisCityVision website

The Mona Lisa (Mona Lisa)
Cosmovision.com Encyclopedia Article

"The Mona Lisa" filmed in ultra high definition
Radio-Canada video

Analysis of a painting: the Mona Lisa
Blog of history teachers at Lycée Claude Lebois in France

Leonardo DeVinci
Wikipedia article