Sabato, 06 Giugno 2020
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DNA testing could confirm Mona Lisa model


(by Kate Carlisle)
Florence, August 7 - Scientists will use DNA
testing to find out whether the remains of a woman exhumed in an
archeological dig in a central Florence convent a year ago
belonged to the beguiling model who sat for Leonardo da Vinci's
famous Mona Lisa portrait.
The family tomb of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo in the
so-called Martyrs' Crypt behind the main altar of Santissima
Annunziata church in Florence contains the remains of
Gherardini's husband Bartolomeo Del Giocondo and of their two
It will be opened Friday for the first time in 300 years
so scientists can compare her sons' DNA to that of a skeleton
found in the basement of a former Ursuline convent July 2012.
"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", explained Silvano
Vinceti, who is charge of the National Committee for the
valuation of historic, cultural and environmental assets.
"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".
The long-running hunt for the iconic da Vinci model
culminated when researchers in Florence uncovered the base of a
15th-century altar in St Ursula, which they firmly believed lead
to the tomb containing the remains of Mona Lisa.
"After 1500, only two women were buried here: Mona Lisa
Gherardini, in 1542, and another noblewoman, Maria del Riccio,"
said a statement from researchers.
The researchers added that the dead were traditionally
buried near church altars at the time, and that Carbon-14
analysis would be necessary to properly date the recovered
The search pinning Gherardini as the model for the
Louvre-housed painting was first justified by historical
research by pioneering art historian Giorgio Vasari.
It was then further spearheaded by a discovery several
years ago in Germany of a document written in Latin by
Leonardo's scribe saying that a woman called Lisa had been the
model for the masterpiece.
Leonardo sleuth Giuseppe Pallanti published a book in 2007
arguing the former convent "must be" the last resting place of
La Gioconda, as the Italians call the Mona Lisa because of the
surname of her husband, Del Giocondo.
He said his research has wiped away all doubt about the
identity of La Gioconda, who is believed to have joined the
Ursuline nuns in old age.
"It was her, Lisa, the wife of the merchant Francesco
Del Giocondo - and she lived right opposite Leonardo in Via
Ghibellina," Pallanti said.
Most modern scholars have now agreed with Pallanti that the
Mona Lisa sitter was Lisa Del Giocondo, who according to the
Italian researcher became a nun after her husband's death and
died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63.
So now the proof lies in the DNA if the bones found in the
convent are those of the wife and model turned nun.
Gherardini and Del Giocondo were married in 1495 when the
bride was 16 and the groom 35.
It has frequently been suggested that Del Giocondo
commissioned Leonardo to paint his Mona Lisa (mona is the
standard Italian contraction for madonna, or "my lady,") to
mark his wife's pregnancy or the recent birth of their second
child in December 1502.
While pregnancy or childbirth have been put forward in
the past as explanations for Mona Lisa's cryptic smile, there is
no shortage of theories - some less plausible than
One group of medical researchers has maintained that the
sitter's mouth is so firmly shut because she was undergoing
mercury treatment for syphilis which turned her teeth black.
An American dentist claimed that the tight-lipped
expression was typical of people who have lost their front
teeth, while a Danish doctor was convinced she suffered from
congenital palsy which affected the left side of her face and
this is why her hands are overly large.
A French surgeon has also put forth his view that she
was semi-paralysed, perhaps as the result of a stroke, and
that this explained why one hand looks relaxed and the other
Leading American feminist Camille Paglia simply
concluded that the cool, appraising smile showed that "what
Mona Lisa is ultimately saying is that males are unnecessary".

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