So....this just in, a New York artist has claimed that, by turning Da Vinci's iconic Mona Lisa sideways, you can detect images of various animals, among them a lion and a buffalo. These hidden beasts supposedly support the view that the strangely-compelling and legendary portrait is actually a commentary on jealousy....

Frankly, I envy this fellow's imagination. As you can see from the above image, more than a little interpretation is required. What I find interesting is not whether or not there might be embedded images of animals (which is plausible), but that the artist, one Ron Piccirillo, sees a buffalo, or bison.

It is true that bison, or Wisent, were common in Europe....about 1,200 years ago. But the beasts were largely driven to extinction in Southern Europe before the Middle Ages, and were almost exclusively confined by the 15th century to a forested reserve that is about one-third the size of Fresno County, an area which today straddles the border between Poland and Belarus.

How would Da Vinci have seen the European bison? He lived his entire life in Italy and France, regions where the bison populations had been driven extinct more than five centuries earlier. At best, he might've seen a (very old) hide or skulls, taxidermy having not been developed, or else drawings made by travelers. This all seems very improbable, and a telling comment on Mr. Piccirillo's ability to see faces where, perhaps, nothing such was intended. Which is common.