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Mona Lisa? Researchers Examine Remains Looking for Portrait's Subject

Image: Mona Lisa? Researchers Examine Remains Looking for Portrait's Subject

By Alexandra Ward   |   Monday, 12 Aug 2013 12:30 PM

The centuries-old mystery of the Mona Lisa may soon be solved as a team of Italian researchers prepares to conduct DNA testing on skeletal remains that could be the woman believed to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci's famous portrait.

Last year, excavators found several skeletons in the Martyrs' Crypt behind the main altar of Florence's Basilica della Santissima Annuziata. They believe that one of them could be that of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, a merchant's wife who lived across the street from da Vinci. Gherardini is widely believed by art experts to be the identity of the woman featured in the 16th-century painting, according to NBC News.

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"Right now we are carrying out carbon-14 tests on three of the eight skeletons found in St. Ursula, which could be the age Lisa Gherardini was when she died," Silvano Vinceti, who heads Italy's national committee for cultural heritage, told the ANSA news agency. "The carbon-14 test will tell us which of the three dates back to the 1500s. Only then will we know which skeleton to do the final DNA test on."

The generally accepted storyline is that Gherardini's husband commissioned the portrait to celebrate either Lisa's pregnancy in 1502 or the purchase of a house in 1503. After her husband died, Gherardini is believed to have become a nun. She died in 1542 at age 63 and was rumored to have been buried near the altar.

If DNA tests point to Gherardini, the next step would be to attempt facial recognition based on the bone structure, Vinceti said.

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