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What do Mona Lisa and Man of La Mancha have in common?

Picasso’s “Don Quixote”

Yet another grave of an historic figure is being dug up. Where is the outrage?
Last year Italy exhumed Mona Lisa’s grave under a Florentine nunnery to verify that she’s the one in the painting, even though a death certificate indicates that she was buried there in 1542.

Now the remains of Spain’s most celebrated author, Miguel de Cervantes, father of the modern novel, famed for the chivalric saga “Don Quixote,” is getting dug up under the Convent of Trinitarians in Madrid, even though a record shows that he was buried there the day after his death in 1616.

What’s driving this particular dig? Apparently, there’s no grave marker and Spain wants to mark the exact burial spot under the convent. Not that anyone will see it, necessarily. There’s no plan to move the grave.

Radar will be used to first scan the floor to ensure that a body is buried there. If so, it will be disentombed for identification

All of which cues the question, are these diggings worth the effort? Will “Don Quixote,” said to have influenced Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alexandre Dumas “Three Musketeers,” be any more influential if we know the exact spot under a convent where his remains lie?

Similarly, why expose Mona Lisa. Will her mysterious smile, which attracts some six million visitors each year, draw more visitors if they know the skull and bones under a convent are or aren’t hers?

Preliminary analyses of her skull and bones shows they belong to a female. Next comes comparing the skeletal DNA with two of Mona’s children buried beneath a church elsewhere in Florence. Are you getting this? They’re going to dig up children to make a match. If there is a match, Mona’s face will be reconstructed and compared to the one in Leonardo’s painting.

Will it matter if it doesn’t? Won’t they then want to unearth Leonardo’s remains owing to a belief that the painting may be his self-portrait? And if it’s not the artist or his model in the painting, won't they want to dig up all the other known possibilities: Leonardo’s mother Caterina, Princess Isabella of Naples, Spanish noblewoman Costanzade’Avalos and Cecelia Gallerani - the subject of Leonardo’s painting “The Lady with an Ermine”?

And let's not forget Leonardo’s apprentice and supposed lover Gian Giacomo Caprotti, called Salai, who inherited the portrait after his mentor’s death. It’s long been theorized that the title “Mona Lisa” is an anagram for “Mon Salai.”

Isn’t all this unburying the same thing wrong with the King Tut exhibits? Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb was intended to protect his remains. It was supposed to safeguard the Egyptian ruler for the hereafter. Belief in the life after death was so strong among the Pharaohs, that food and wine were buried with them when they died. Doesn’t that mean that English Egyptologist Howard Carter, who dug up Tut's grave in 1922, not only stole its contents – casket and all – but also stole Tut's eternal life?

Is disinterring in the name of art or literature ethical? Anybody?

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