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Bodies to be exhumed to prove Mona Lisa's identity

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Leonardo Da Vinci's immortal portrait, the Mona Lisa has enchanted mankind for centuries. Part of the painting's allure is the origin of her mysterious smile - as well as her identity. Many believe that the real-life Mona Lisa was a merchant's wife named Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo. Now, that woman's two sons will be exhumed in bid to find if she really was the inspiration behind the painting.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A Florentine family tomb has been opened up for the first time in centuries in a bid to identify the bones of a woman believed to be the model for the Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci's 16th century painting, which now hangs in the Louvre, Paris, is believed to be a woman who lived across the street from the artist.

A tomb in a former St Ursula convent in Florence was opened and several skeletons found last year. Experts believed the skeletons there could be the remains of Gherardini.

In a bid to correctly identify the remains, samples will now be taken from the Gherardini family tomb in the Martyrs' Crypt in Santissima Annunziata basilica where her husband and two sons are buried.

In order to exhume the remains, a round hole was cut in the stone floor just big enough for a person to wriggle through. Geologist Antonio Moretti said the remains had an inscribed stone indicating they belonged to the family of Lisa Gherardini's husband and sons.

"Right now we are carrying out carbon-14 tests on three of the eight skeletons found in St Ursula, which could be the age Lisa Gherardini was when she died," Silvano Vinceti, head of Italy's national committee for cultural heritage, said. "The carbon-14 test will tell us which of the three dates back to the 1500s. Only then will we know which skeleton to do the final DNA test on."

It's thought that Lisa's husband Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned the portrait to celebrate either Lisa's pregnancy or the purchase of a house around 1502 and 1503.

After Franceso's death, Lisa became a nun, dying in 1542 at the age of 63. She was said to be buried near the convent's altar.

If the team think they have a positive match, Vinceti plans to commission a virtual reconstruction of Lisa Gherardini's face, based on the bone structure, and compare it to Leonardo's painting.

"If we succeed, we can finally resolve three questions which have obsessed historians and art-lovers worldwide," Vinceti says.

"Was Gherardini the model for the Mona Lisa? Or was it some other model, as some people say? Or is it just a construction of the painter's fantasy?"

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