The Italian Almanac

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Mona Lisa

Still Looking for Mona Lisa

The hunt for the tomb and possible remains of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa in a former Florence convent is set to start again after the necessary funds were drummed up. If enough is discovered, experts may be able to reconstruct the woman's face and find out more about that famous smile.

"Now we have the money to go ahead and the hunt will begin again," said Florence Provincial Councillor Stefano Giorgetti. "I'm confident we're going to find something," said Silvano Vinceti, an art historian who has found the bones of Caravaggio and reconstructed the faces of other artists based on their skulls.

Vinceti and his team have been using a 'georadar' device to scan underneath the old convent of St Ursula to find the DNA of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo and compare it with that of two her children buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church. As well as the key DNA match, carbon-dating and other tests will also be carried out by the University of Bologna.

Most modern scholars have now agreed that the Mona Lisa sitter was Lisa del Giocondo, who according to the Italian researcher became a nun after her husband's death and died in the convent on July 15, 1542, aged 63. The couple were married in 1495 when the bride was 16 and the groom 35. It has frequently been suggested that del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo to paint his Mona Lisa (mona is the standard Italian contraction for madonna, or "my lady,") to mark his wife's pregnancy or the recent birth of their second child in December 1502.

Although pregnancy or childbirth have been put forward in the past as explanations for Mona Lisa's cryptic smile, other theories have not been lacking - some less plausible than others. Leading American feminist Camille Paglia simply concluded that the cool, appraising smile showed that "what Mona Lisa is ultimately saying is that males are unnecessary".