Mona Lisa remains an enigma as body parts prove inconclusive

Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:32am EDT
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ROME (Reuters) - Italian researchers said on Thursday they might have found bone fragments belonging to the woman immortalized by Leonardo da Vinci in his acclaimed "Mona Lisa" portrait.

However, the limits of current technology made it impossible to say for certain whether they had discovered the remains of Lisa Gherardini, who is thought to have sat for Leonardo and who was the wife of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

The "Mona Lisa", known in Italian as the "Gioconda", hangs in Paris's Louvre museum and is possibly the most famous painting in the world, depicting a young woman with an enigmatic smile, her hands gently folded on her lap.

Although the identity of the woman is not certain, many historians believe it was probably Gherardini and archaeologists started looking for her body three years ago in a convent where she spent her final days. Additionally they opened the Giocondo family tomb in a Florence church seeking to make a DNA match.

A number of bodies were uncovered, but carbon dating found that only a group of bone fragments came from the early 16th century when Gherardini lived and the Mona Lisa was painted.

Silvano Vinceti, who heads Italy's National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage, said documentation about the burial site and the scientific testing made him confident they had unearthed Gherardini.

"If you were to ask me what I personally, subjectively, think and feel, I'd say I believe that we have found her," he told reporters.

Other experts were much more cautious, saying that given the poor state of the fragments, it was impossible to be sure.

Giorgio Gruppioni, professor of anthropology at the University of Bologna, said that based purely on scientific evidence, the chances they had found Mona Lisa was "certainly not high".   Continued...