August 12, 2013
The Search For Mona Lisa’s Bones
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An Italian art director says he's close to finally pinning down the identity of Leonardo Da Vinci's iconic Mona Lisa. It's been a mystery that has plagued art historians for centuries; one of the most well-known paintings in the world depicts a stoic woman with a half smirk, but no one has been able to explain who this woman is or why exactly Da Vinci chose to paint her.
In recent years researchers have sought out the bones of the women, who is now known as Lisa Gherardini, in an attempt to use modern genetic analysis to pinpoint her identity. According to a death certificate, Gherardini died in 1542 and was interred in a convent in Florence, Italy.
Gherardini's bones were unearthed from the church last year, giving Silvano Vinceti, the art historian looking for her identity, a chance to extract her DNA and solve the long standing mystery. This latest development means that Vinceti's team may be nearing the end of their more than two-year mission to uncover Mona Lisa's identity.
Three of the skeletons unearthed last year underneath the Sant’Orsola convent in Florence are undergoing carbon dating tests to determine whether they originate from the 1500s. This is the period in which many historians agree Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.
Vincenti’s team is also looking at skeletons from another tomb located underneath the Basilica della Santissima Annuziata, where they believe Gherardini’s family was buried. Therefore, if Gherardini’s DNA matches the genetic material from the Annuziata tombs, they could very well confirm that it was Gherardini in the painting.
"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” said Vinceti in an interview with ANSA.
“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.”
Though many agree the subject in Mona Lisa most certainly to be the wife of the wealthy silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, one art historian believes Vinceti is hoping for too much in believing he’s found the actual skeleton of Ms. Gherardini.
According to Tomaso Montanari, "hundreds, if not thousands" of women were buried underneath the Sant’Orsola convent, saying Vinceti has no real way of knowing he has found the exact bones of Gherardini. Later he told the Guardian that Vinceti is “not a researcher.”
A 16th century historian first suggested Gherardini was the woman seated in the Mona Lisa and, later, other historians claimed her husband may have commissioned Da Vinci to paint the picture for him. While Vinceti and team attempt to finally settle the true identity of Mona Lisa, historian Giuseppe Pallanti has put together the pieces of Gherardini’s background, saying she lived an “extraordinary life.”
According to his studies, she was born in 1479 and died 63 years later and may have been cared for in her later years by her daughter, a nun. According to death records at the convent in Florence which became her final resting place, the entire parish was present for her funeral.