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In PICS: Who was the real Mona Lisa?

Last updated on: April 6, 2011 18:15 IST

Who was the real Mona Lisa?

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The art world's most enduring mystery surrounding the identity of the woman in Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait Mona Lisa may soon be solved.

Art historians, led by Prof Silvano Vincetart, are planning to exhume the remains of the woman, believed to have been the model for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, in a bid to extract her DNA and recreate her face, the Daily Mail has reported.

The site for the dig is a former convent where the coffin of noblewoman Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo is believed to be buried. She is thought to have been the woman behind the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa, the 500-year-old painting.

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Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters
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Vinceti said the aim of the dig at the Saint Orsola convent in Florence is to find her bones and extract the DNA from inside them so they can rebuild her face. He said, "An initial survey of the building has revealed a 500 year old crypt in the grounds below and we firmly believe it is the resting place of Lisa Gherardini who's the inspiration for Mona Lisa.

"We will compare the DNA that we find in the bones from the former convent to those of remains in two other churches in Florence where two of her children are buried." Lisa Gheradini, who died in 1542, was the wife of a rich silk merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

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Who was the real Mona Lisa?

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In Italy, the Mona Lisa is known as La Gioconda. Historians have already discovered her death certificate which gives the resting place as the Saint Orsola convent, but there are fears that, after 500 years the crypt may have shifted.

Digging will begin at the end of the month. However, there are fears that the project will be unsuccessful as locals have told the team that some 30 years ago the remains of the convent were bulldozed into a rubbish dump.

Photographs: John Gress/Reuters
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