Mona Lisa’s remains found in Italy
A group of Italian scientists led by the famous art researcher Silvano Vinceti have discovered the remains of a skeleton that most likely belonged to Lisa Gherardini. According to the most popular theory, it was Gherardini – an aristocrat from Florence and wife of wealthy silk trader Francesco del Giocondo – who was the mysterious model that posed for the great Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The sensational discovery was made not far from the former convent of St. Ursula in Florence. Lisa Gherardini joined that convent right after her husband passed away and lived there until her death.
Silvano Vinceti, the researcher who led the archaeologists and is president of Italy’s National Committee for Cultural Heritage, talked about the details of the unique expedition in his interview to the Voice of Russia.
Voice of Russia: Mr. Vinceti, what inspired you to look for the remains of Lisa Gherardini in the vicinity of the former convent of St. Ursula?
Silvano Vincenti: It happened due to the testimony of Lisa Gherardini’s death, which we found a few years ago. The document stated that Lisa Gherardini, also known as Mona Lisa, was buried in the convent of St. Ursula in Florence. That fact pushed us to look for her remains. Our archaeological work was initially focused on the small church of St. Ursula that was located on the territory of the convent. We picked that place because we had the records of the convent’s history which talked in detail about various burial sites. And those tombs did not belong to the Franciscans, but to other people. The documents described in detail how burials were organized in those times. Unfortunately, some documents were lost for good. One such document concerned the burial of Lisa Gherardini, who died on July 15, 1542. Taking into account that in those days there was a strictly prescribed ritual, we are confident that the body of Lisa Gherardini was buried under the floor of the St. Ursula Church. This is where our active archaeological work is being conducted right now. At present, we have succeeded in discovering four underground tombs in which we found fragments of two bodies. In the nearest future, the remains will undergo analysis at the University of Bologna. It is important to note that a few days ago we discovered a Franciscan altar that had not been known to exist previously. None of the documents in our possession mentioned it. Moreover, a special georadar could not detect it either. Under the foundation of that very altar, new “surprises” can be uncovered.
As soon as the search operation to uncover all the body remains is complete, they will all be transferred to the Department of Cultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. After that we plan to conduct carbon dating tests on the remains, which would establish the burial dates. Then, there will be another examination to establish the age of the bones themselves. In addition, we are planning to perform an anthropological analysis. Of all the remains we have recovered, we will select the ones that match the following criteria: a person buried around the age of 63, since that was the age at which Lisa Gherardini died; that they are of female gender, as well as the burial date. The bones that fit those criteria will be compared to the DNA of Lisa Gherardini’s children who were buried not far from the convent in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata. That is where the Gherardini family crypt is located.
Thanks to all this research we will be able to officially announce whether la Gioconda’s grave has been discovered. If we are lucky to also find her skull, we will be able with the assistance of other Italian scientific institutes to make a model of Lisa Gherardini’s face. It would allow us to compare it to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
VOR: When will the world be able to know for sure that you have truly uncovered the mysterious Gioconda?
SV: The archaeological work will be finished in September. Four more months will be needed for all the expert analysis at the University of Bologna. I believe that around Christmas or early next year we will have the final results.