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'Mona Lisa' Ancestor Against Archaeologists Hunt For Remains

By Bradley David Morien
The Digest, The Digest, Associate Editor

Archeologists have begun searching for the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant who lived during the 16th century. Historians have long believed Gherardini to be the model depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece the ‘Mona Lisa’.

Italian researchers believe Gherardini’s remains are buried under a Florence covenant. In an attempt to locate the exact location, the research team will be utilizing ground penetrating radar to search the now dilapidated covenant.

The research team conducting the search is hoping to be able to use the remains to digitally reconstruct Gherardini’s face. The reconstruction would allow the researchers to compare Gherardini’s face with the face depicted in da Vinci’s famous painting. The goal of this comparison is to finally determine whether Gherardini was in fact the model da Vinci used in creating the 'Mona Lisa’. Some scholars are highly skeptical that this objective will ultimately prove successful.

The expedition to recover Gherardini’s remains is not without controversy. Natalia Guicciardini Strozzi, Gherardini’s ancestor, has called the exploration "a sacrilegious act". Guicciardini Strozzi, a princess from a noble family from Florence, actress, and wine maker, has a bloodline linkage with Gherardini that dates back fifteen generations. "My ancestor's remains should be left to rest in peace," said the princess, "What difference would finding her remains make to the allure of Leonardo's painting?”

Guicciardini Strozzi’s plea to leave her ancestor’s remains in peace has seemly done little to dissuade the research teams plans. The researchers expect to spend three days mapping the site, and if all goes to plan, begin the two week excavation in early May. The research team is hopeful that they find a women of appropriate age, Gherardini was 63 when she died in 1542. If such remains are found, DNA will be extracted from the bones and attempted to be matched with samples taken from Gherardini’s children. A successful match will allow the process of facial recreation to begin.

For more information, please see:

Telegraph, “Italian princess ancestor of 'Mona Lisa' says remains should be left in peace,” 27 Apr. 2011.