Her enigmatic smile has baffled art lovers for centuries – but now the mystery of the Mona Lisa seems to have finally been solved.
Historical experts believe they have found the tomb of Leonardo’s model buried under the altar of a derelict Florence convent.
Carbon testing on the bones of three women exhumed in Florence’s Sant’Orsola convent have been dated to the time of death of Italian noblewoman Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo.
Most historians now agree that Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, a noblewoman who was the third wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, was the sitter for the Renaissance masterpiece.
In an investigation worthy of the Da Vinci Code, archaeologists led by art detective Silvano Vinceti exhumed several skeletons stacked on top of each other under the chapel.
And scientists have now completed carbon dating work on one of the fragments which indicated the remains were compatible with the period.
Gherardini died at age 63 in 1542, where, by then a widow, she had gone to live with her daughter, Marietta, a nun.
Head researcher Silvano Vinceti who leads the National Committee of Historic, Cultural and Environmental Heritage said it is ‘very likely’ the remains belong to Gherardini.
The art investigator, who has previously made ground-breaking discoveries based on the artist Caravaggio’s remains claimed: ‘There are converging elements, above and beyond the results of the carbon-14 tests, that say we may well have found Lisa’s grave.’
‘I’m speaking of historical, anthropological and archeological analyses that have been carried out very rigorously’.
He added: ‘The odds that the bones belong to her are extremely high.’
Vinceti said unfortunately there are few remains, and no skull, which could have been used to reconstruct the enigmatic face of the model.
And lying in the ground for centuries had left the DNA of the bones of her sons Bartolomeo and Piero the DNA too damaged to be comparable.
He said: ‘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’.
Fellow researcher, Giorgio Gruppioni, head of the forensic anthropology laboratory at Bologna University said: ‘Our biggest problem has been the fact that the fragments were very fragmented, very deteriorated.’
That complicated the task of determining the sex and age at death as well as DNA analysis, he said.
Vinceti said that in several years the technology could exist to definitely confirm the find as the Mona Lisa using ‘new sources of DNA we will have managed to scrape together’.
The researchers based their search of the chapel on research on Gherardini’s life by Italian historian Giuseppe Pallanti who found Francesco del Giocondo’s will.
There, the merchant asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his ‘beloved wife,’ Lisa.
Another document known as a “Book of the Dead,” found by Pallanti in a church archive showed that Lisa remained there until her death on July 15, 1542,
Only wealthy women such as Gherardini, who were not nuns, were given special burials in the convent.
Every year, about 6 million people visit the Musée du Louvre in Paris to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous portrait.
The true identity of the woman in the portrait was argued over by art historians for years. But a note written by an Italian government clerk named Agostino Vespucci in 1503 identifies Lisa del Giocondo as the subject of the painting.
In keeping with this argument the Italian name for the Mona Lisa is La Gioconda.