Has the real Mona Lisa been found?

Italian historians believe remains found in a Florence convent are Da Vinci's famous model

Mona Lisa
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Researchers working in Italy believe they have found the remains of the woman who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, famed for her enigmatic smile.

The model is believed to be Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Carbon testing has shown that a collection of bones, recently exhumed from Florence's Sant'Orsola convent, date back to the time that Gherardini died.

Head researcher Silvano Vinceti, who leads the National Committee of Historic, Cultural and Environmental Heritage, told the Daily Mail it is "very likely" the remains belong to Gherardini.

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"There are converging elements, above and beyond the results of the carbon-14 tests, that say we may well have found Lisa's grave," he said. "I'm speaking of historical, anthropological and archeological analyses that have been carried out very rigorously. The odds that the bones belong to her are extremely high."

However, Vinceti's team have been stymied by the degradation of not only Gheradini's bones but also those suspected to belong to her children Bartolomeo and Piero, found less than half a mile away in another church.

The team had hoped to match DNA from her children to the new discovery in order to conclusively prove their theory.

Vinceti explained: "The remains of the children that were found in the church of the Santissima Annunziata have been degraded too much by the flooding of the Arno and are not able to provide sufficient DNA for possible comparison tests."

However, the Daily Telegraph reports that even if the bones are proven to belong to Gheradini with future DNA tests, there remains little conclusive evidence that she was definitely the model for the Mona Lisa.

"It has been variously suggested that the famous painting is a self-portrait by Leonardo or a painting of a courtesan or a Spanish noblewoman, or that it could even be based on Salai, his male apprentice and possible lover," says the newspaper.

Vinceti had hoped to find Gherardini's skull and then use forensic techniques to reconstruct her face, comparing the reconstruction with Da Vinci's painting. However, no skull has yet been found.

In America, news of the findings was announced in a puzzling report from Fox News, which mistakenly attributed the Mona Lisa to Leonardo Di Caprio.

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