Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Remains found beneath the floor of a convent in Florence may belong to Mona Lisa
It all began last year, when a team of archaeologists started digging at the abandoned Convent of Saint Ursula (St.Orsola), where they would soon discover a female human skull along with other fragments of human ribs and vertebrae five feet under the convent's original floor. For the team, that crypt located under the remains of the altar, was Lisa Gherardini's final resting place.
However, the digging works were suspended due to the lack of funds and only recently, the team of archaelogists was able to resume their work.
According to archaelogist Silvano Vinceti, who is in charge of the dig , his search in the convent was based on church records found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti a few years ago. Records from 1495 mention a crypt that was accessed by the archaelogists via a grate followed by a staircase. The second crypt found by the team, where they believe to be the bones belonging to Mona Lisa, is mentioned in the records from 1625.
During his extensive research, Pallanti found several significant documents, including Francesco del Giocondo's will, where he asked his younger daughter Marietta to take care of his "beloved wife" Lisa.
Marietta was one of the couple's five children and at the time of the will had become a nun, thus she brought her mother to the nearby convent of Saint Ursula, where she would remain for the rest of her life.
Pallanti found in the church archive, a document known as "Book of the Dead," where it states the following: "Lisa di Francesco del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried in Sant'Orsola."
The document noted that the whole parish turned out to her funeral, demonstrating that Lisa was renowned among the Florentine society.
Vinceti said that the newly discovered remains will undergo DNA testing, radiocarbon dating and hystological analysis. Comparisons will eventually be made with the DNA of Lisa's children Bartomoleo and Piero, who are buried in the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.
Should the tests confirm that those bones belong to a female skeleton, according to Silvano Vinceti there will be two possibilites: Either they belong to Lisa Gherardini or to the noblewoman Maria del Riccio, since according to historic records, only these two women, who were not nuns, were given special burials in the convent.
In the outcame of a positive confirmation that not only the bones but also the skull belong to Lisa Gherardini, forensic artists will attempt to reconstruct her face to see how it compares with the portrait painted by Leonardo da Vinci near 500 years ago. Maybe it will also help to solve or at least shed some light upon Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile.
Known in Italy as La Giconda or La Joconde in France, Lisa Gherardini (June 15, 1479 - July 15, 1542) was married to the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. Among the experts exists the concensus that she was the inspiring muse who posed for the most famous portrait in the world: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.