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Is this the skeleton of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'?

May 27, 2011 |  1:09 pm


The seemingly never-ending quest for the true identity of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" took a notable step forward Friday when the Italian media reported that a skeleton found in a former convent in Florence could be the remains of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo -- the 16th century woman who is believed to have been the model for the world's most famous painting.

The skeleton is believed to be female, but more tests are required to be certain, according to reports. Researchers in Italy used historical records, including Gherardini's death certificate that was discovered a few years ago, to locate the remains.

Gherardini, who died around 1542, is believed to have married a merchant named Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo. Some say that he commissioned Da Vinci to paint the portrait of his wife to celebrate the birth of a child. After his death, Gherardini is believed to have entered a convent.

The painting's Italian title -- "La Gioconda" -- refers to the subject's married name.

Bologna University anthropologist Giorgio Gruppioni told Italian media that the skeleton was whole and connected, but had partially collapsed. He added that further excavation will be needed to confirm the hypothesis that it is the remains of Gherardini.


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 -- David Ng

Photos, from top: A skeleton recently unearthed in Italy that could be the remains of the model for "Mona Lisa." Credit: Maurizio Degl'Innocenti / European Pressphoto Agency

The "Mona Lisa," at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Credit: Amel Pain / Associated Press