Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1519
A team of archaeologists have discovered a skeleton which they believe could be the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the inspiration behind da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
The discovery was made underneath the floor of a convent in Florence, where Gherardini died in 1542, aged 63. The now abandoned convent has been an excavation site for some time now, although the dig had to be placed on halt when the team ran out of funds, not long after they already discovered a female-sized human skull, buried five feet under the convent’s original flooring.
Now, the team has discovered the remains of a human skeleton which they also believe belongs to Gherardini, a woman who most modern historians believe is the model who posed for da Vinci in his famous painting.
In order to determine if the bones are indeed Gherardini’s, scientists are preparing to compare the DNA of the skull to the rest of the skeleton in order to first determine whether these remains came from the same person.
Then, the DNA of these fragments will be compared to the remains of the bones of Gherardini’s two children, who were buried nearby.
"We don't know yet if the bones belong to one single skeleton or more than one," archaeologist Silvano Vinceti said
. "But this confirms our hypothesis that in St.Ursula convent there are still human bones and we cannot exclude that among them there are bones belonging to Lisa Gherardini."
If it is discovered that the discovered remains are Gherardini’s, forensic artists will then attempt to reconstruct her face and compare it to the one depicted in da Vinci’s painting.
"This is a very exciting development and the find is consistent with our records and our preliminary research. The crypt we have found is the one that was mentioned in church records from 1495 and was reached via a grate and then a staircase," Vinceti said. "We also know from those records that in 1625 there was a second crypt and these are the ones we have found."
One of Gherardini’s ancestors, Natalia Gucciardini Strozzi, has also been present during the excavation process. Following the discovery of the skull, she said:
"It was so emotional being here - I didn't think I would get so emotional. I am certain that this is the final resting place of Lisa Gherardini."
Those hoping that this venture will ultimately lead to the discovery of the real Mona Lisa’s remains can rest assured that they at least have the right man on the case. Vinceti, who believes the remains will also help him to unlock the secret behind the Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile, was previously responsible for the discovery of the remains of Renaissance master Caravaggio.