Mona Lisa mystery could be solved by woman's remains

Art historian Silvano Vinceti The mystery behind the identity of the Mona Lisa has baffled art experts for centuries

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Researchers will attempt to identify the woman who sat for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, by digging up the remains of an Italian noblewoman.

Art historian Silvano Vinceti believes that by locating the remains of Lisa Gherardini, he can prove whether she was the artist's model.

A recently discovered death certificate suggests she died in 1542 and is interred in a convent in Florence.

The excavation will begin at Saint Orsola later this month.

The mystery behind the Mona Lisa and her enigmatic smile has baffled art experts for five-hundred years.

"We can put an end to a centuries-old dispute and also understand Leonardo's relations to his models," Vinceti told the Associated Press news agency.

"To him, painting also meant giving a physical representation to the inner traits of their personalities."

Using scientific techniques, Vinceti says he hopes to extract DNA from the skull of Gherardini - the wife of a rich silk merchant - and rebuild her face.

The group led by Vinceti has already reconstructed the faces of some artists on the basis of their skulls.

Last June, it said it had identified the bones of Italian Renaissance artist Caravaggio and discovered a possible cause of his mysterious death.

However, some doubts have been cast whether analysing centuries-old bones can be conclusive.

Vinceti has been studying the artwork for months. He has claimed to have found symbols hidden in the painting, which is kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

He believes Gherardini might have been an early model for the painting, but da Vinci might have been influenced by the face of his young male apprentice and lover.

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