Let's face it: Most of us don't know what the big deal is about great works of art, other than that they were created by famous artists (which is kind of circuitous logic). What's so special about the "Mona Lisa," anyway?
Well, part of it is that the more we study these centuries-old paintings, the more weird shit we discover -- about the past, about the artists, and about how the human brain works. For example, we just recently figured out that ...
Portraits Usually Show the Left Side of the Face Due to a Weird Brain Bias
As far as the sheer number of existing pictorial depictions goes, the crucifixion of Jesus comes in second only to that crude penis that every male knows how to draw by age 6. Over the entire 2,000-year span of people busily jotting down this grisly spectacle, one thing has remained eerily consistent: Jesus is almost always shown with his face turned to the right, exposing his left cheek.
Meister des Rabula-Evangeliums
Spoiler: He dies at the end.
If you think it's because artists were always trying to hide Jesus' secret face tattoo, you should know that this phenomenon comes up in most paintings, and nobody was ever sure why. It turns out it's due to brain weirdness.
Sam Kean, author of The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, studied this weird phenomenon. He says that if the choice of which side to depict was totally random, we would find that gallery collections have roughly a third of all portraits facing straight forward, a third facing to the left, and a third facing to the right (obviously). However, studies show that this isn't the case -- about 60 percent of subjects sit with their left cheek facing the viewer, their left eye practically in the middle of the painting. It's twice as common as it should be.
Gilbert Stuart, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Jacques-Louis David, Johannes Vermeer, Elias Garcia Martinez