Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa continues to captivate, with her famous “disappearing smile,” but scientists may now have confirmed the long-suspected identity of the portrait's subject. Using carbon-dated bone fragments from a Florence convent, researchers consider it “very likely” that the remains belonged to Lisa Gherardini del Gioncondo, the wife of a textile merchant.
Lead researcher Silvano Vincenti commented on the discovery, “There are converging elements, above and beyond the results of the carbon-14 tests, that say we may well have found Lisa’s grave.”
Gherardini has long been considered the subject of the painting, according to accounts from 16th-century artist Giorgio Vassari. In 2005, the discovery of a margin note from a 16th century text confirmed those suspicions.
In creating the famous portrait, Da Vinci employed the Sfumato style of painting, which when translated means “blurred” or “soft.” Considered the most famous practitioner of the style, Da Vinci used the technique to subdue the outlines of her smile. As a result, viewers of the painting notice that she seems to be smiling more when they look at her using their peripheral vision, such as when focusing on her eyes. When they focus on the mouth, she seems to have lips that are pursed.
As a result of the exhumation of a Florence tomb that began in 2011, the remains of 12 individuals were discovered. Only one among that group was dated to the time period in which Gherardini lived.
Researchers also conducted DNA analysis of the fragments, but it remained incomplete due to the degraded nature of the sample. Vincenti stated that definitive proof will require more DNA sources that are as of yet, undiscovered.
Even as one more detail of her identity is revealed, the famous smile of the Mona Lisa will undoubtedly continue to draw tourists to the Louvre.