Magazine article Newsweek

A Certain Smile

Magazine article Newsweek

A Certain Smile

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbie Latza Nadeau

Archeologists are trying to finally identify the real-life Mona Lisa by exhuming skeletal remains and DNA testing.

Deep below the ruins of the Sant'Orsola convent in Florence, workers in white jumpsuits gently brush away the dirt surrounding the skeletal remains of eight women buried here more than five centuries ago. One of the skeletons is very likely that of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, believed to be Leonardo da Vinci's model for his famous painting of Mona Lisa. But in order to find out which of the ancient bones are hers, archeologists led by the head of Italy's national committee for cultural heritage, Silvano Vinceti, are going to extreme measures.

The bones of the youngest skeletons were carbon-dated last spring to determine with precision which were most likely to have been buried in the 1500s, when Lisa Gherardini was laid to rest, according to family records. Once the most likely remains were identified, archeologists were still unable to ascertain with complete certainty if the remains were really those of Leonardo's most famous model, also rumored to be his lover. This week, however, they came one step closer to solving the mystery, by digging up the bones of Gherardini's kin.

Because there is no doubt that Gherardini's husband is buried in the crypt below the church, experts are using his DNA to positively identify their son Piero, whose remains are interred with him in the family tomb. …

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