Historians Search Mona Lisa Remains

Art historians are resorting to grave-digging in a bid to solve the mystery behind the world's most famous painting. Scientists in Italy plan to exhume the 500-year-old remains of a woman widely believed to be Leonardo Da Vinci's model for the Mona Lisa and extract DNA from inside her bones to recreate her face. ARTKABINETT art collector social network always loves digging around for a good art story. Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo is thought to be buried in a crypt beneath a former convent in Florence, Italy.

Gherardini's death certificate gives her resting place as the Saint Orsola convent (exterior shown below), but there are fears her crypt has been move in the half century since her death. Locals near the convent have said the building's remains were bulldozed into a rubbish tip 30 years ago.

Should the team find Gherardini, Professor Silvio Vincenti says they will compare DNA from her corpse to the remains of two of her children buried in other churches in Florence, and then rebuild her face.

Gherardini was the wife of a rich silk merchant, and died in 1542.  She is thought by many to be the woman with the mysterious smile depicted in the famous painting.

Last year scientists with a different theory about the Mona Lisa's identity sought permission to exhume the remains of Leonardo Da Vinci. They believed the painting may be a disguised self-portrait. Others has posited it that it was feminized image of his long-time companion, Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salai, who worked with Leonardo for more than two decades starting in 1490.

The name of the painting stems from the name of the woman in the portrait, Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy businessman in Florence, Italy named Francesco del Giocondo. Mona means ‘my lady’ or ‘madam’ in modern Italian, so the title is simply Madam Lisa.

Painting's history

Art historians agree that Leonardo da Vinci likely began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503, and completed it within 4 years. In 1516 the King of France, King Francois, bought the painting and it is thought that after Leonardo’s death the painting was cut down.

Some speculators think that the original had columns on both sides of the lady, whereas other art critics believe that the painting was never cut down in size. It has been suggested that there were 2 versions of the Mona Lisa painting, but many historians reject the second version. The duplicate copy may be located at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

After the French revolution the painting was moved to the Louvre, and Napoleon had it placed in his bedroom for a short time before it was returned to the Louvre. The popularity of the Mona Lisa increased in the mid 19th century because of the Symbolist movement. The painting was thought to encompass a sort of feminine mystique.

The oil on panel painting is now owned by the French government and sits in the Louvre museum in Paris, where it has led a dramatic life.

In 1911 an Italian employee of the gallery stole the painting to returned it to its native home. The Mona Lisa wasn't returned to the Louvre until two years later after being widely displayed around Italy.

In 1956 it was attacked by by vandals in two separate incidents, prompting the gallery to erect a bullet proof glass casing.

A wise move, as it turns out. Last year a Russian woman threw a mug of tea at the painting, angry at being refused French citizenship.