Remains of woman point to the model behind the 'Mona Lisa' smile
A group of Italian researchers believe they have discovered remains of the woman thought to be the model for the iconic "Mona Lisa" painting.
They found the remains while excavating a derelict building in central Florence, Italy, that covers the ruins of an old Franciscan convent, CNN reported.
This is the place that old city records say the woman who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's painting, Lisa Gherardini, the second wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, was buried.
Silvano Vinceti, a former producer for the Italian state broadcaster RAI, is leading a team to exhume and identify Gherardini's remains.
Those remains are wrapped in aluminum foil and packed into large Tupperware containers stacked in an old filing cabinet.
Vinceti and his colleagues took them out, one by one, and eventually found one packet with what appeared to be skull fragments.
"This is probably it," Vinceti said.
The remains, he said, will be sent for DNA testing to several universities in Italy and abroad, where they will be checked against the DNA of two confirmed relatives of Gherardini buried elsewhere.
"Once we identify the remains," he said, "we can reconstruct the face, with a margin of error of 2 to 8 percent. By doing this, we will finally be able to answer the question the art historians can't: Who was the model for Leonardo?"
Vinceti has no doubt that da Vinci was commissioned to paint a portrait of Gherardini, but he is not certain whether the painting that now hangs in the Louvre in Paris is of her, or just contains some of her features.
It will be several months before DNA tests can be conducted and the reconstruction of Gherardini's face can be completed.
And regardless of the results, Vinceti admits that da Vinci is beyond comprehension: "This is the magic of a great genius who eludes classification, around whom remains a fog of mystery. I am under no illusion that we will be able to solve the mystery of the 'Mona Lisa.'