Controversy surrounds plans to dig up the grave of a Florentine woman thought to be the sitter of the Mona Lisa. A mausoleum will be searched and excavated in the next few weeks to try and identify the remains of a woman long thought to be the subject of the iconic portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Renaissance woman’s identity has created strong debate for hundreds of years with far-fetched theories and hearsay providing centuries of press and speculation. One recent article reported that the sitter was a man and one of Leonardo’s many lovers.
Italian researchers believe the remains are that of the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. The portrait known in Italian as “La Gioconda” was mentioned in the writings of Giorgio Vasari, a 16th-century artist and biographer of Leonardo. This is the earliest and most accurate recorded documentation of the painting, by a historian.
Lisa Gherardini is thought to be buried in the Convent of St. Ursula in central Florence a location with patronage links to her family. she is said to have died in 1542 which would tally with the age of the painting. The historians will be searching for specific characteristics such as traces of possible diseases or bone structure to match what is known of Gherardini’s life.
If the team is successful in locating the remains her face would be reconstructed on basis of her skull, much like the reconstruction utilised on Egyptian mummies. The project, if successful will help answer some of the enduring mysteries surrounding Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, including whether the woman, Lisa Gherardini, was indeed the model. Digging will begin later in the month.