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DNA testing begins to determine if skeleton is remains of real life ‘Mona Lisa’

A tourist takes a picture of the famous Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Mona Lisa" in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre museum on Aug. 24, 2005 in Paris.
A tourist takes a picture of the famous Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Mona Lisa" in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre museum on Aug. 24, 2005 in Paris.
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Researchers are trying to put a name behind the coy smile, as DNA testing has begun on a skeleton found in Florence, Italy, that may be the remains of the real life “Mona Lisa,” according to a report today from the Wall Street Journal.

Italian art historian Silvano Vinceti has announced the start of DNA testing trying to link the remains found in a convent in Florence to Lisa Gheradini, a Florentine woman who, according to the report, is widely regarded as the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.

A noblewoman and wife of a Florentine silk merchant, Gheradini is believes to have sat for Da Vinci sometime between 1503 and 1506, but some historians believes the artist could have used other models to complete the “Mona Lisa,” working on the portrait until possibly as late as 1517.

Vinceti said that if the remains turn out not to be Gheradini’s, it will only serve to reignite debate among art historians as to who was the model for the “Mona Lisa.”

“If we don’t find her, art historians can continue to speculate about who the model really was,” Vinceti said.

On the other hand, if facial reconstruction of Gheradini’s remains turns out to not resemble the painting it could shine a light on another of Vinceti’s theories: that the “Mona Lisa” was comprised of several models, perhaps even a man.

“She is androgynous,” Vinceti said. “This has a cultural significance.”