Bone fragments dating back to the 16th century are “very likely” to be that of the actual Mona Lisa, say Italian researchers.
Lisa Gherardini, the wife of silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, has long been linked to the intriguing portrait, although art historians have never been able to agree conclusively on the model’s identity.
Now fragments have been found at Sant’Orsola monastery that appear to match the time and location which Gherardini was buried. She died aged 63 in 1542, and is believed to have been buried at a convent in Florence.
Researchers told journalists in Italy the likelihood the bones belonged to Gherardini were “very high”, but admitted testing would be impossible because none of her relatives have been found.
In addition, the fragments are weak.
“Our biggest problem has been the fact that the fragments were very fragmented, very deteriorated,” said Giorgio Gruppioni, head of the forensic anthropology laboratory at Bologna.
Head researcher Silvano Vinceti said unfortunately there are few remains, and no skull, which might have helped determine if the woman could have been Leonardo’s model for the portrait, which is in the Louvre in Paris.
Leonardo’s 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vassari wrote that artist had painted a portrait of del Giocondo’s wife. Tradition has long linked the woman to the Mona Lisa painting, which is known in Italian as La Gioconda.