Friday, June 02, 2006
Forensic Science and Mona Lisa
By Toshi Maeda Wed May 31, 10:01 AM ET
TOKYO (Reuters) - The Mona Lisa's smile may always remain a mystery, but it is now possible to hear what her voice would have sounded like, thanks to a Japanese acoustics expert.
Dr Matsumi Suzuki, who generally uses his skills to help with criminal investigations, measured the face and hands of Leonardo da Vinci's famous 16th century portrait to estimate her height and create a model of her skull.
"Once we have that, we can create a voice very similar to that of the person concerned," Suzuki told Reuters in an interview at his Tokyo office last week. "We have recreated the voices of a lot of famous people that were very close to the real thing and have been
used in film dubbing." The chart of any individual's voice, known as a voice print, is unique to that person and Suzuki says he believes he has achieved 90 percent accuracy in recreating the quality of the enigmatic woman's speaking tone.
"I am the Mona Lisa. My true identity is shrouded in mystery," the portrait proclaims on a Web site at http://promotion.msn.co.jp/davinci/voice.htm. "In Mona Lisa's case, the lower part of her face is quite wide and her chin is pointed," Suzuki explained. "The extra volume means a relatively low voice, while the pointed chin adds mid-pitch tones," he added. The scientists brought in an Italian woman to add the necessary intonation to the voice. "We then had to think about what to have her say," Suzuki said. "We tried having her speak Japanese, but it didn't suit her image." Experts disagree over who was represented in the portrait, with some saying the smiling woman is Leonardo himself, or his mother.
The team also attempted to recreate Leonardo's own voice in a project timed to coincide with the release of the film "The Da Vinci Code." Suzuki said he was less confident about its accuracy because he had to work from self-portraits where the artist wore a beard, concealing the shape of his face.
Suzuki's work has made contributions to criminal investigations -- in one case after he successfully aged a person's voice by a decade. A recording of the voice was broadcast on television, leading to the apprehension of a suspect.