'Mona Lisa' mystery solved
Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, has long been seen as the most likely model for the sixteenth-century painting.
But art historians have often wondered whether the smiling woman may actually have been da Vinci's lover, his mother or the artist himself.
Now experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes scribbled in the margins of a book by its owner in October 1503 confirm once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was indeed the model for one of the most famous portraits in the world.
"All doubts about the identity of the Mona Lisa have been
eliminated by a discovery by Dr. Armin Schlechter," a
manuscript expert, the library said in a statement on Monday.
Until then, only "scant evidence" from sixteenth-century
documents had been available. "This left lots of room for
interpretation and there were many different identities put
forward," the library said.
The notes were made by a Florentine city official Agostino
Vespucci, an acquaintance of the artist, in a collection of
letters by the Roman orator Cicero.
The comments compare Leonardo to the ancient Greek artist
Apelles and say he was working on three paintings at the time,
one of them a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.
Art experts, who have already dated the painting to this
time, say the Heidelberg discovery is a breakthrough and the
earliest mention linking the merchant's wife to the portrait.
"There is no reason for any lingering doubts that this is
another woman," Leipzig University art historian Frank Zoellner
told German radio. "One could even say that books written about
all this in the past few years were unnecessary, had we known."
The woman was first linked to the painting in around 1550
by Italian official Giorgio Vasari, the library said, but added
there had been doubts about Vasari's reliability and had made
the comments five decades after the portrait had been painted.
The Heidelberg notes were actually discovered over two
years ago in the library by Schlechter, a spokeswoman said.
Although the findings had been printed in the library's
public catalogue they had not been widely publicized and had
received little attention until a German broadcaster
decided to do some recording at the library, she said.
The painting, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is also
known as "La Gioconda" meaning the happy or joyful woman in
Italian, a title which also suggests the woman's married name.